By Marsha Meeks Kelly

In another life, I was a public school teacher. English, math and eventually “Skills for Adolescence” were the subjects that consumed my days along with an average of 140 seventh graders.

Every day I worked hard to meet the needs of my students in “inner-city” public schools in Mississippi. I remember the tears of the student who came to me to discuss her pregnancy and how she was going to tell her parents and whether she should get married at 13 years of age.

That year we started a “Peer Ears” program, a peer counseling program, and the next year we started survival skills classes called “Skills for Adolescence.” Too many pregnancies and too many sexually-transmitted diseases forced our school district to incorporate classes to educate our students about their life decisions.

Reading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on the sexual and reproductive health of young people was depressing. So little progress has been made here! Twenty years ago several concerned Mississippians formed a statewide coalition to work with the legislature to ensure a comprehensive K-12 health education curriculum, but we still do not have even a pilot program offering students sex education, despite attempts to institute such a program in the 2009 legislative session.

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