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Abstinence-Only High School Hit by Chlamydia Outbreak

The Short of It

Parents of kids who attend Crane High School in Texas, which teaches a three-day abstinence-only sexual education course, received a surprising letter last week: 20 cases of chlamydia were diagnosed in its student population of about 300. That's about 1 in 15 students.

The Lowdown

The school's sex-ed curriculum—which we know includes abstinence but don't know what else is covered—is being called into question after the outbreak. School Superintendent Jim T. Rumage defended what the school teaches in a recent interview.

"If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can't get this disease ... That's not a bad program," he said.

Chlamydia is particularly problematic because often it doesn't show many symptoms, but if left untreated, it can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system and could lead to infertility. Men usually don't have long-term problems resulting from the STD.

The school is now meeting with its local Schools Health Advisory Committee to decide if the sex education curriculum should be revised.

The Upshot

I'm not opposed to teaching kids the advantages of abstinence. Superintendent Rumage is right—that's the only way to prevent STDs and pregnancy. But, this story suggests that teens aren't necessarily going to abstain from sex just because their health teachers tell them to. So understanding the problems associated with STDs, how they're spread and how to prevent them if they do decide to have sex, may be really valuable. It will be interesting to see if and how the school's curriculum gets changed.

What do you think—is abstinence-only education the way to go? Or should schools teach sex ed differently?

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