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House Committee Considers Changes to Sex Education Requirements

A House committee considers taking away the requirement that school districts teach students about birth control. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Missouri law requires sex education courses in public schools to include discussions about contraception.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would do away with that requirement.

A high school student from St Louis County, senior Sarah Barasch told the House Children and Families Committee that young people need to be informed about birth control options and the effectiveness of contraception. But supporters of a bill to do away with mandatory discussions about contraception say students should get that kind of information from their personal physicians, who know their health history.

Republican Representative Cynthia Davis is the bill sponsor...She told the committee that young people should get information from their doctors, not from health and physical education teachers.

Opponents of the bill say it's unrealistic to expect teens to make an appointment with a doctor to learn more about contraception.

Retired pediatrician Steven Plax of St Louis sat through the hearing on the bill.

After the hearing, he said some teens don't have a regular doctor and won't feel comfortable talking with an unfamiliar doctor about such intimate topics.

Others say by taking away the contraception discussion, the state would move to an abstinence only sex education program.

Franklin McCallie is the retired principal of a St Louis County high school.

He told the committee that abstinence only sex education doesn't work.

Supporters of the bill say it doesn't stop school districts from continuing to teach students about contraception.

The bill's co-sponsor Republican Representative Jane Cunningham of St Louis County says she doesn't believe abstinence only education is ineffective at preventing teen pregnancy.

In addition to removing the requirement that sex education courses include information on contraception, the bill would ban anyone employed by or affiliated with Planned Parenthood from speaking to public school students as part of a sex education course.

Sherry Pierce, a registered nurse told the House committee that the organization should not be involved in sex education in schools.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri says the local organization does not have any employees who teach sex education at the high school level and focuses its efforts on educated college students.

Amanda Sheridan is a community educator for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri who teaches sex education at high schools in the Kansas City area.

She says her job has nothing to do with generating new clients for Planned Parenthood.

The bill faces a vote in the House committee...If it gains approval, it would move to the House floor.