Louisiana consistently has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and new STD/HIV infections in the country. In an effort to spur change and foster important dialogue, the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) launched the Geaux Talk campaign to engage Louisiana caregivers, students, educators, and legislators in honest, fact-based conversations about comprehensive sex education (CSE). CSE teaches that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and diseases (STDs), but it also includes medically accurate information about ways to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy and STDs, like birth control and condoms.
The Geaux Talk campaign is guided by a new statewide survey of Louisiana caregivers that found caregivers wanted their children to receive comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate information about sexual health topics in school. Additionally, the survey, a collaboration between LPHI and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES), found that 61 percent of Louisiana parents and caregivers surveyed believe their child has received or will receive sex education in school, when in reality, they likely haven’t/won’t and 74 percent of caregivers believe schools should be required to offer sexual education.
“Comprehensive sex education is one of the best ways to positively impact the poor sexual health statistics for our teens here in Louisiana,” said Kristie Bardell, Associate Director, Family Health Portfolio at LPHI. “The Geaux Talk campaign provides the tools parents and caregivers need to have these conversations with their children that align with their individual family values and beliefs to ensure a healthier future for our kids.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, Louisiana had the highest rates of syphilis among adolescents nationwide, the second highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea among adolescents, and the 6th highest teen birth rate. Currently in Louisiana, instruction in sexual health education is not required at any grade level, but sex education can be taught in grades 7–12. Sexual health education must emphasize abstinence, but can also include other risk reduction methods, such as contraception and condoms. However, the education is often not comprehensive and may not provide guidance in key areas. Parents and caregivers surveyed were also overwhelmingly in favor of (9 out of 10) curricula that provided education on:
- How to deal with peer pressure in regards to sex
- The spread and prevention of HIV/AIDS and STIs
- Self-esteem building and coping skills
- Healthy/Unhealthy relationships & signs of abuse
- About rape and what to do if someone is sexually assaulted
“As a parent I know the value of high-quality, research-driven, comprehensive sex education,” said Stacy Head, Councilmember-At-Large for the New Orleans City Council. “But as a policy maker, it’s important to me to have data and facts inform my work. We have known that comprehensive sex education keeps kids in school and healthy by reducing pregnancies and STIs. Through this research we now also know that parents in New Orleans want their children to get this information and have these conversations, not only at home but at school.”
“Incorporating CSE in the school system would be life changing for our youth. I am an advocate for CSE because I know all too well the impact that not having CSE within our schools currently has on our youth,” said Ethan Ashley, Orleans Parish School Board member for District 2. “In the words of a great philosopher, Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” It is time that we progress for our youth and implement a robust CSE program.”
As part of the Geaux Talk campaign, LPHI will host events for parents, educators, and legislators across Louisiana this fall to facilitate conversations about comprehensive sex education. To learn more about the campaign, events and how to get involved, visit www.GeauxTalk.org.
Click here to download the study’s short fact sheet.
To download the full report, click here.