State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
- Mississippi schools are required to teach sex education.
- Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
- Curriculum must stress abstinence through “abstinence-only” or “abstinence-plus” instruction.
- Curriculum must inform students of current state law related to homosexual activity. While Mississippi Code Annotated 97-29-59 outlaws sodomy, stating that “Every person who shall be convicted of the detestable and abominable crime against nature committed with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of not more than ten years”, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in Lawrence v. Texas that declared state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior to be unconstitutional in 2003.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
- Parents or guardians must receive notification at least one week prior to the provision of any human sexuality instruction. Schools must receive written permission from a parent or guardian before a student can participate in a sex education course. This is referred to as an “opt-in” policy.
- Mississippi has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction.
Section 37-13-171 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 requires each school district to adopt either an “abstinence-only” or an “abstinence-plus” education policy. Under the law, both “abstinence-only” and “abstinence-plus” instruction must include “abstinence-only education.” Such instruction must teach:
- the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity, and the likely negative psychological and physical effects of not abstaining.
- the harmful consequences to the child, the child’s parents, and society that bearing children out of wedlock is likely to produce, including the health, educational, financial, and other difficulties the child and his or her parents are likely to face, as well as the inappropriate social and economic burden placed on others.
- that unwanted sexual advances are irresponsible; how to reject sexual advances; and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances.
- that abstinence from sexual activity before marriage, and fidelity within marriage, is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and related health problems.
- the current state law related to sexual conduct, including forcible rape, statutory rape, paternity establishment, child support, and homosexual activity.
- that a mutually faithful, monogamous marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual intercourse.
Human sexuality instruction provided in schools need not address every component of “abstinence-only” instruction. However, no instruction provided under an “abstinence-only” program can contradict any of these components. Instruction may also include a discussion of contraceptives, so long as it includes “a factual presentation of the risks and failure rates.” In addition to teaching abstinence-only concepts, “abstinence-plus” instruction may discuss broader sexual health topics, such as “the nature, causes and effects of [STDs],” and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other STD prevention education. However, the program “shall not include instruction and demonstrations on the application and use of condoms.” The Mississippi Department of Education must approve each district’s curriculum, as well as establish a protocol for ensuring that provided instruction is “age, grade, and developmentally appropriate.” Students must be separated by gender at all times when sexuality instruction is taught. In addition, no instruction provided through an “abstinence-only” or “abstinence-plus” curriculum shall teach that “abortion can be used to prevent the birth of a baby.”
The Mississippi Department of Health and the Department of Education must implement a Teen Pregnancy Pilot Program in districts with the highest number of teen pregnancies, given the availability of funding. Such programs must be coordinated through the school nurse and include information on abstinence, reproductive health, teen pregnancy, and STDs. Mississippi public school nurses may not provide abortion counseling to students, nor may they refer students to abortion services.
Parents or guardians must receive notification at least one week prior to the provision of any human sexuality instruction, and they “have the right to request the inclusion of their child” in sex education instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-in” policy.
State Profiles provided by SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. For more information regarding your state’s sex ed policy, visit https://siecus.org/state_profile/mississippi-state-profile/