Gay rights protester Bob Gilchrist waves a flag outside the Hilton hotel in Jackson, Miss., March 8, 2012.
Josh Haner/New York Times/Redux

Mississippi sex-ed classes teach kids that homosexuality is illegal


Mississippi, home to one of the highest birth rates in the country, requires educators to push a sex-education curriculum centered around abstinence and allows teachers to instruct students that homosexuality is illegal. 

A report by the Los Angeles Times spurred the latest surge of controversy over sex-ed curriculums in Mississippi, where the Republican governor just last week signed a controversial bill that effectively legalizes discrimination against LGBT individuals on the grounds of “religious liberty.” Educators in Mississippi school districts are required to teach in line with state law that defines “unnatural intercourse” as “the detestable and abominable crime against nature committed with mankind or with a beast.”

Although teachers are permitted to opt out of presenting anti-gay sex instruction, they are not allowed to contradict the state’s anti-sodomy statute.

The only problem with the curriculum plan: homosexuality isn’t illegal. As the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn notes, the Supreme Court struck down Texas’s anti-sodomy law in 2003, thereby invalidating similar laws across the country.

Mississippi’s anti-sodomy mandate isn’t the only eye-popping news out of the Los Angeles Times report. The newspaper supplies an anecdote out of a classroom in Oxford. A worker in public health describes her outrage after students were told to unwrap a Peppermint Pattie, and pass the chunk of chocolate around the classroom. The school kids were told to observe how dirty the candy got.

“They’re using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she’s had sex — that she’s been used,” the parent told the LA Times

An administrator for the school district swiftly refuted the “misleading” report and told The Clarion Ledger that educators currently use a different curriculum. The previous version was scrapped just two years ago.

Meanwhile, the state leads the pack in staggering pregnancy rates. In 2011, Mississippi was second in the nation for teen birth rates. That year, the state’s birth rate was 50 out of 1,000 females ages 15 to 19; the national rate was 31 for every 1,000.

Sex-ed in the Magnolia State is limited to either “abstinence-only” or “abstinence-plus” curriculums – the latter, while allowing lessons on contraception and STDs, prohibits teaching students how to use condoms. Teachers must tell students that a “monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual intercourse.” Any mention of abortion as a means to prevent the birth of a baby is, of course, also barred.

An earlier version of this story did not include that Mississippi teachers are permitted to opt-out of presenting anti-gay sex instruction. The article has been updated to reflect the exemption.