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Abstinence-only is the Choice for Many Mississippi Schools

Another step in Mississippi’s battle against teen pregnancy will begin in the 2012-13 school year.
A state law enacted in 2011 requiring school districts to teach some form of sex education will take effect in the upcoming school year.
Districts had until June 30 to choose between abstinence-only and abstinence-plus approaches. Abstinence-plus includes discussions of contraception, but no demonstrations of condoms, The Associated Press reported.
According to information released in July by the state Department of Education, more than 50 percent of schools districts have opted for an abstinence-only curriculum. Eighty-one school districts have chosen an abstinence-only approach, while 71 districts will teach abstinence-plus. Three districts chose to use a hybrid approach—abstinence-only with younger grades and abstinence-plus for older grades.
The state’s two largest school districts were split on their chosen methods. DeSoto County, the largest district, chose abstinence-only. The second-largest district, the city of Jackson, chose abstinence-plus.
The four specialty schools governed by the state Board of Education— the Mississippi School for the Deaf, the Mississippi School for the Blind, the Mississippi School of the Arts, and the Mississippi School for Math and Science—also will teach abstinence-plus.
Boys and girls will be educated separately and parents must give permission for their children to take the sex education classes.
Mississippi has long had teen pregnancy rates above the national average. State Health Department statistics show that in 2009, about 64 out of 1,000 girls ages 10 to 19 gave birth to a baby who lived. The U.S. national average was 39 live births among every 1,000 girls and women under 20, according to The Associated Press.
Prior to the 2011 law, school districts were allowed to teach abstinence, although it was not required; they could go further with local school board approval.
 
MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced in July the state would receive $19.2 million from a national settlement with the nation’s five largest banks over dishonest mortgage practices. A majority of the state’s settlement money will be used for programs that create affordable housing, provide legal assistance for those in danger of foreclosure and revitalize foreclosed housing. Other beneficiaries of the settlement include the city of Louisville and the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting Program.
 
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING
Alabama became the 38th state to outlaw texting while driving when a new law took effect in July. The fine is $25 for first offenses, $50 for second and $75 for third, The Birmingham News reported. Motorists who are pulled over by law enforcement also will receive two penalty points on their driver’s licenses. Talking on a cell phone, entering a phone number and using a GPS navigation device are still legal under the new law.
 
DEATH PENALTY
Virginia’s Department of Corrections announced in July the use of a new drug to execute prisoners by lethal injection, according to The Washington Post. Due to a nationwide shortage of pancuronium bromide, the state will now be using rocuronium bromide as part of its three-drug cocktail. Other states have opted to switch to a one-drug regimen as a response to the shortage.
 
UNCLAIMED PROPERTY
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced in July that during the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state returned a record $211 million in unclaimed cash and property to residents. The number represented nearly a 12 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Currently, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property holds accounts valued at more than $1 billion. Since Atwater took office in January 2011, more than $323.6 million has been returned to Floridians, according to his office.
 
GPS DEVICES
The Arkansas Highway Commission in July approved a plan to equip each of the state Highway and Transportation Department’s 2,400 vehicles with GPS devices, the Arkansas News Bureau reported. The department will be the first state agency to install GPS devices in all its vehicles. Installations are expected to cost about $700,000 and are expected to save the state money in the long run. Highway Director Scott Bennett said the devices would help with both preventive maintenance and employee accountability.
 

 
 
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