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MN2020 - Poll Shows Parent Support For Sex Ed
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Poll Shows Parent Support For Sex Ed

March 26, 2008 By John Fitzgerald, Education Policy Fellow

A new survey shows nearly 89 percent of Minnesota parents support comprehensive sex education. Slightly less than 10 percent support abstinence-only education.

The survey also found that almost every respondent supported instruction about sexual anatomy and the use of birth control, and more than 90 percent agreed with instruction on topics such as birth, sexually transmitted diseases, assertiveness skills and pregnancy. With the exception of abortion, most parents wanted the topics discussed before high school.

The survey of 1,600 Minnesotans was conducted in 2006 and 2007 by researchers in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. The findings appear in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"Parents by and large wanted schools to be teaching about abstinence, of course, but to go beyond that as well and be teaching about methods to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections for young people who are sexually active," lead investigator Marla Eisenberg told Minnesota Public Radio.  

Minnesota requires only that schools offer information on HIV and other sexual diseases, and encourage abstinence. No statistics on sex education are kept.

However, "we know that many districts, schools and teachers are afraid to take on comprehensive sexuality education out of fear of controversy in the community," Eisenberg said.

Almost half of Minnesota teens are sexually active while the incidence of abortion and some sexually transmitted diseases are rising.

  • Statistics gathered by the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting show:
  • The percentage of sexually active teens has steadily decreased between 1992 (61.2 percent) and 2004 (46.1 percent);
  • In 2005, 6,622 females aged 15 to 19 and 108 females under the age of 15 became pregnant; there were 4,780 births to females aged 15 to 19 and 59 births to females under the age of 15;
  • In 2006, teens aged 15 to 19 accounted for 30 percent of all Chlamydia cases, 24 percent of all gonorrhea cases, and 4 percent of all syphilis cases in Minnesota.
  • In 2006, there were 14 new cases of HIV among teens aged 13 to 19.
  • In 2005, 72 percent of reported pregnancies among females aged 15 to 19 resulted in a live birth; 27 percent of pregnancies were terminated.

During the 2007 legislative session, lawmakers were prepared to add comprehensive sex education to its education bill, but removed it after Gov. Tim Pawlenty threatened a veto.

Legislators hope to revive the issue. On March 4, progressive leaders gathered on the Capitol steps to declare their support for comprehensive sex education.

The support follows on Minnesota's decision to remove funding from Minnesota Education Now and Babies Later. The program used state and federal money to provide grants to schools and groups to teach the advantages of abstinence.

But the federal government recently changed the rules to require the program teach everyone ages 12 to 29 that sex outside of marriage was psychologically and physically harmful.  

Maggie Diebel, director of community health for the Health Department, told the Star Tribune that state officials thought such messages were inappropriate for 12- to 14-year-olds and opted not to ask for the federal money.

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