What Do Mississippi Parents Think About Sex-Related Education in Public Schools?

Friday, August 10th, 2012

During its 2011 Regular Session, the Mississippi Legislature passed HB 999, which requires each local school board to adopt a policy on sex-related education by June 30, 2012, to implement either an abstinence-only or an abstinence-plus curriculum. The Center for Mississippi Health Policy commissioned Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center to survey parents of Mississippi public school students to assess their attitudes and opinions regarding the content of and methods for delivering sex-related education in the schools. The Center has published an Issue Brief summarizing the results of this survey.

Key Findings

Parents overwhelmingly support teaching sex-related education in Mississippi public schools. The majority think the education should begin in middle school, and the curriculum should be comprehensive and determined by public health professionals. They support separating children by gender during sex-related education classes and requiring parents to provide written permission for a student to be included in the class.

Overall Support

About 92 percent of parents surveyed said that sex-related education should be taught in the Mississippi public school system at an age appropriate grade level. Six percent of parents did not agree, and most of these parents gave the reason that sex education should be taught by parents.

The majority of parents (64.8 percent) thought that sex-related education should first be taught in middle school (grades 5, 6, and 7).

Most parents (61 percent) thought that students should be separated by gender during sex-related education classes. The same percentage expressed the opinion that parents should have to sign a form in order for a student to participate in sex-related education classes. When asked to rate the importance of the type of people or groups who should determine the material to be taught in sex-related education classes, parents rated public health professionals the highest, followed by school health councils.

Parents supported a comprehensive range of topics to be included in the curriculum. The topic garnering the least amount of support was opposed by fewer than a quarter of the parents.

Copies of the issue brief can be downloaded HERE, and copies of the detailed report can be downloaded HERE. Printed copies of the issue brief or full report are available by contacting the Center for Mississippi Health Policy at 601-709-2133 or by e-mail at info@mshealthpolicy.com.