The Jackson County Board of Health is edging toward a recommendation that the county school system change its sex education policy and curriculum.
Meeting last Wednesday, the board heard district health director Dr. Claude Burnett propose “the next step,” a policy that includes not just abstinence, but also information about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.
The Clarke County School System recently adopted a new policy, said Burnett, but most school systems “have the old policy which said abstinence only, abstinence until marriage, which is a desirable goal, but does not address the issues sufficiently, given the realities of the situation.”
One of the “realities” is that Jackson County leads the health district in the percentage of babies born to teenage mothers, according to Burnett.
The Jackson County Health Department provides birth control information and birth control at its Commerce and Jefferson clinics. Burnett presented data claiming that the two clinics prevented 81 teen pregnancies over the last fiscal year, saving the taxpayers more than $550,000 in services.
Burnett now wants to get the information directly into the schools.
“Part of the reason is there are staff who have teens ask them for information and staff has felt unable to respond, having very stringent rules about abstinence only,” he explained. “This (new) policy has enabled (Clarke County) staff to learn more about it and to provide information to teens they really need, in part to graduate from school. This has been a major barrier for some teens in progressing in their lives.”
Burnett wants the board of health to recommend to the Jackson County Board of Education, and to the community, a similar change in the school system’s policy.
“We will be talking with the schools,” he said. “We would like to have the board look this over and see what comment you might have in support of the board of education passing such a policy.”