- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - For the third time in five years, legislators on Wednesday shot down a fellow lawmaker’s proposal to mandate sex education in Louisiana’s public schools.

The House Education Committee voted 10-3 to reject the bill sponsored by Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, which would have required public schools to teach sex education to students in fourth through 12th grades.

Current law allows public schools to teach sex education to students in seventh grade and above. But the instruction isn’t required. Smith argued mandating sex education will help the state lower its high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

“We have problems in this state that need to be addressed,” she said.

Other supporters of the bill have argued that mandatory sex education would help students develop a healthy view of sex and relationships.

One of them, Dr. Ryan Pasternak, said many young people rely on myths, not facts, to avoid such things as pregnancy. Sex education could help change that, he said.

Smith’s bill would have required sex education to be based on medical facts, would have allowed parents to opt out of the lessons for their children, and would have emphasized abstinence as the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

It also would have included information on contraception, a provision that Catholic bishops opposed.

“That is a dramatic shift in public policy,” said Rob Tasman, associate director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Smith offered to amend the measure to bar teachers from passing out contraception to students to appease the bishops. However, other opponents were not satisfied.

“It takes away another choice from the parent,” said Jim Crumling, with the tea party organization Acadiana Patriots.

Crumling and the conservative Louisiana Power Coalition opposed Smith’s bill, arguing children get adequate information on sex from parents and many schools.

Voting against the bill were Reps. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond; Henry Burns, R-Haugton; Simone Champagne, R-Erath; Cameron Henry, R-Metairie; Paul Hollis, R-Covington; Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge; Jerome Richard, R-Thibodaux; Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston; Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City; and Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge; committee chairman.

Voting for the bill were Smith and Reps. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans; and Ed Price, D-Gonzales.

This is the third time in five years that lawmakers have rejected the bill, which Smith also proposed in 2010 and 2012. Smith said she isn’t giving up on the idea for future legislative sessions.

While the sex education proposal was rejected, a related bill by Smith aimed at tackling teen pregnancy and high rates of sexually transmitted disease passed the committee Tuesday. It would allow the state Department of Education to ask sex-related questions as part of a survey on teen risk behaviors. That bill moves next to the House floor for debate.



House Bill 369 and 393 can be found at www.legis.la.gov



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