Daily Dispatches

Tennessee enacts pro-abstinence sex education law

Education

Tennessee recently enacted a pro-abstinence sex education law that is among the strictest in the nation.

The sex ed law uses the criminal statute on sexual assault to specify acts - such as groping or fondling - that fall under "gateway sexual activity." It also says family life curriculum must not "display or conduct demonstrations with devices specifically manufactured for sexual stimulation." If such incidents do occur, then a parent can sue and a fine can be imposed of at least $500.

Before the current law, Nashville parent Rodrick Glover thought about legal action in 2010 when he found out an anti-AIDS group had visited his 17-year-old daughter's class and demonstrated safe oral sex with a sex toy and a condom.

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"I teach my child the power of abstinence," said Glover, whose complaint spurred the drafting of the legislation. "When you start bringing sex toys in, at a point you're stimulating the kids to have sex."

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said Tennessee is ahead of most other states and has closed a loophole.

"I think that is unique in that rather than this legislation just saying there needs to be an emphasis on abstinence education, it also prohibits too explicit sex education from being either put in schools under the guise of abstinence education, or in opposition to an abstinence education program," she said.

Democratic Rep. John Deberry supported the new limits on what can be covered in sex ed class as a way to help teenagers from going too far.

"When individuals are touching one another's intimate parts ... this is sexual activity that has its ultimate goal of penetration," said the Memphis Democrat and minister.

Student Josiah Pegues, 14, of Nashville said he's already made up his mind about sex - for now, at least.

"It's best to abstain," said the ninth-grader who aspires to be an FBI agent. "You don't want to get anyone pregnant or get an STD. It could mess up your future."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Whitney Williams
Whitney Williams

Whitney happily serves WORLD as web editorial assistant. When she's not working from her home office in Texas, she's probably fishing or hunting with her husband.

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