The fight against our teenagers getting pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases may have just become more difficult. Because of a new mandate just put in place by Texas lawmakers, high schoolers are not required to take health anymore.
The teenage years are critical when it comes to sex education...especially in our area, where teen pregnancy and STD rates exceed those in other parts of the state.
This new mandate has organizations like Worth The Wait worried, because health classes give them access to high school students. Executive Director Amy Christie says, "we were in the health classes, and it was mandatory health and so all the kids were getting our worth the wait program so now that it's an elective we're looking at means to where we can put the program."
The Texas Panhandle Planning and Health Centers echo that concern, especially as the number of chlamydia cases in Potter County alone went up from 857 to 1,101 in just one year. Education Director Alyssa Srivastava says, "it is our hope the school district chooses to provide an alternative way to convey this information to students."
The Canyon district is weighing its options. Curriculum Director Kim Beth Buchanan says, "we will either have to decide whether we want to offer health as a local requirement, which would count as a state elective but would say locally we require you to take it so they would be sure to get that abstinence education."
If that happens, it would be the first time the district has locally required a state elective. Another option is getting an abstinence program in another class.
The Amarillo district says they are also trying to figure out how to tackle the health class issue.