A recent outbreak of chlamydia in a Texas high school is yet another example of how Republican children are paying the price for their parents’ ignorance. It doesn’t matter that all of the evidence proves that an abstinence-only curriculum is almost entirely ineffective; facts and empirical evidence have never mattered much to the right-wing, who relentlessly continue to fight against teaching kids how to protect themselves. In Texas, there is a statewide mandate that says all reproductive health classes must emphasize abstinence and now the kids in one school district are paying the price.
The Crane Independent School District recently sent a letter home to parents that informed them of a chlamydia outbreak at Crane High School. Twenty case of chlamydia have been reported in a school with only 300 students. That means about one in fifteen teens in the school have the totally preventable sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia is often called the “silent STD” because it has almost no symptoms, so it is entirely possible that more kids are infected and they don’t even know it.
This is what happens when Republicans shape a curriculum to fit their ideology and not scientific facts. The Crane district does not currently offer mandatory sexual health classes; instead the high school students have three days of optional sex-ed with materials centered around abstinence only. The state of Texas does not require the district offer the classes.
Even with a significant STD breakout in his district, the superintendent of Crane Independent School District, Jim T. Rumage, defended the decision not to teach kids about safe sex, saying that “if kids are not having any sexual activity, they can’t get this disease … That’s not a bad program.”
Teenagers are obviously having unsafe sex because they have not been taught about preventative measures. If that isn’t a bad program, what is?
It’s not just a problem in this one school district, it’s a statewide problem. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control released a report the ranked Texas as the state with the third highest number of HIV diagnoses. In 2012, they ranked 6th for syphilis, 13th for chlamydia and gonorrhea. They have the third highest rate of teen pregnancies, but are number one for repeat teen pregnancies. Furthermore, according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services records, sexually transmitted diseases have risen sharply in recent years, with syphilis diagnoses rising by 31 percent between 2012 and 2013.
Clearly, the abstinence only education is not working!
A report released in October by the Journal of School Health found that school-based comprehensive sex education programs can reduce early adolescents’ risky sexual behavior. They found that students who took the course were less likely to have sex than kids who took the alternative abstinence-only classes which often use fear as a tactic to dissuade kids from engaging in sexual activity.
The fact of the matter is Republicans are putting your children in danger every single time they approve these sorts of abstinence-only curriculums. The huge number of pregnant Texas teens and kids infected with preventable diseases prove it. Parents need to fight back against these ignorant policies so that their schools don’t have the same sort of outbreak Crane High is experiencing. In 2015, with mountains of scientific evidence supporting comprehensive sex education, this should not be happening. The financial costs to our healthcare and social support systems and the emotional damage that these kids suffer through are too much to justify these callous and useless attempts at social control.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.