An outbreak of chlamydia has erupted at a West Texas high school, with 20 reported cases in a student body of just 300. That is over 6% — at a school where, notably, they do not teach sex ed.
The school's superintendent, Jim Rumage, disputes the numbers, telling us that the issue is being "blown way out of proportion," and that only three cases have been confirmed. The local CBS affiliate first reported the number 20, which has since been widely picked up.
The CDC reports that in 2013, the rate of chlamydia infection was 0.5% — which would mean a rate of 3/300 would be roughly double the state's current rate (and, of course, 6% being astronomically higher). Mr. Rumage would not comment on the larger number's provenance.
According to Planned Parenthood, chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the United States, so the fact that it's found among Texas high school students may not be that surprising. But, more concerning is the school's abstention from sexual education on the dangerous premise that no sex is the safest sex.
The district's 2014-2015 Student Handbook reads: "Currently, Crane ISD does not offer a course in human sexuality."
The policy stipulates that should sex be discussed in other areas of the district's curriculum, teachers must "Present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age," and "Devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior."
There's only one big problem with skipping sex ed: according to most research and advocates, it doesn't work. Planned Parenthood says, "Abstinence-only programs do not delay sexual initiation or lower rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)," the site accuses the United States of wasting over $1.5 billion on such curricula.
As of Monday, Rumage did not seem convinced. “If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can’t get this disease...That’s not a bad program,” he told the San Antonio Express-News.
The trouble, of course, is that kids ARE having sexual activity (hence the chlamydia). As lots of research has shown, preaching abstinence doesn't do much to stop teens from having sex, but sex ed does give you a chance to teach them to do it safely.