That week, the pair were working at a middle school in a town where the main street was lined with fast-food restaurants and houses with peeling paint. “I just really don’t know what to expect.” Sex ed was held in the school’s gym, where rickety wooden bleachers stretched across a scarred hardwood basketball court.A few historic homes with well-kept lawns formed a ring around the center of town. A wad of paper lay on the floor; students kicked it as they stampeded into the room. That first day, those without consent forms—about half of them, either denied permission by their parents and guardians or unwilling to produce the signed slips I suspected were crumpled in their backpacks—disappeared into an adjacent room.Then she handed it to the girl in the first row and told her to attach it to her skin and pull it off. The girl did as she was told, and then the piece of tape was passed around for each of us to follow suit.When it got to me, I gingerly stuck it on my left forearm, smoothing it out on my skin. “It’s basically trash.” This tape, she said, could never bond well enough to stick to anything, especially not another dirty piece of tape.Sources: Guttmacher Institute, National Center for Health Statistics, and SIECUS.Despite the apparent failures of the abstinence approach to sex ed, half of all states now embrace it, and the trend shows no sign of abating.I wondered what the teenagers growing up today among West Tennessee’s churches and farms were hearing. of 2014, on an unseasonably cool Monday morning, I climbed into Donna Whittle’s immaculate car outside the offices of Life Choices, in the regional hub of Dyersburg.
“Hey, y’all,” said Boals, a tall 32-year-old with blue eyes and an all-American face. “I was in a relationship in high school for two years, and we had sex,” he said.
In 2012, Mississippi implemented a law that mandates either abstinence-only curricula or abstinence-plus curricula (which stresses abstinence but also teaches kids about contraception).