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New Mexico School Board Debates Sexuality Education Policy, Implements Comprehensive Curriculum

Las Cruces, NM

On January 30, 2007, the Las Cruces, New Mexico School Board voted four to one in favor of implementing new sexuality education guidelines from the New Mexico Public Education Department.1 Aimed at addressing New Mexico’s high rates of teen pregnancy, the state guidelines define sexuality education as part of public school health curriculum and mandate comprehensive discussions of contraception beginning in middle school.2

Las Cruces School District is located in Doña Ana County, which has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state.  In 2005, teenage mothers accounted for 75 out of every 1,000 births in the county, amounting to approximately 53 births to teenage mothers each month.3

A Las Cruces school board member argued that public schools must address this problem, saying “We have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the state and we are doing nothing…We are going to sit on our hands?”4

The school board met twice in January to discuss how to handle the Education Department’s directive.  Debates at both meetings centered on the issue of parental approval for sexuality education instruction.  While the state requires schools to allow parents to remove their child from sexuality education classes (referred to as an opt-out policy), some members of the Las Cruces school board felt that the policy should be reversed.  “A parent has to request sexual education [for their children], not request to be exempted” the board secretary asserted.5

Other members of the board disagreed, questioning why an opt-in policy would be necessary for sexuality education and whether this would ultimately necessitate a similar approach to other subjects such as history, math, and language instruction.  “I have a concern where you say [parental approval is required] before a child can be educated,” said one board member, “How many other areas do we have where a parent has to allow their child to be educated?”6

The discussion continued on January 30 when a local teen pregnancy prevention group came before the school board to urge “broad and accessible sex education.”7  After hearing from this group as well as members of the public from both sides of the debate, the school board voted in favor of implementing the state guidelines with an opt-out policy. 

References

  1. Jason Gibbs, “Board OKs State Sex-Ed Plans,” Las Cruces Sun-News, (31 January 2007), accessed 1 February 2007, <www.lcsun-news.com/news/ci_5122925>.
  2. Jason Gibbs, “Schools Argue Role in Sex Ed.,” Las Cruces Sun-News, (12 January 2007), accessed 29 January 2007, <http://lcsun-news.com/ci_4997836>.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Jason Gibbs, “School Board Takes Up Sex Education,” Las Cruces Sun-News, (30 January 2007), accessed 30 January 2007, <http://www.lcsun-news.com/ci_5115733>.

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