Despite some studies that have shown the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education for teenagers, several states and even the federal government have doubled down their stance on the controversial sex-ed program.

Tennessee has taken the idea one step further.

The state’s legislature has passed a bill that prevents ‘gateway sexual activity’ that legislators believe leads to premarital sex as well as the spread of sexually transmitting diseases and teen pregnancy.

The bill prohibits behaviors such as holding hands, kissing or hugging in schools or during school functions and includes educational instructions on teaching a “family life curriculum.” It also allows parents to file lawsuits against teachers and others for “promoting or condoning” such behavior among students.

Opponents of the legislation, which includes Planned Parenthood, believe the bill unfairly punishes teachers and fails to address rising pregnancy rates among sexually active teenagers by not providing comprehensive sexual education. They also believe the term ‘gateway sexual activity’ is too vague.

Planned Parenthood Director of Education Elokin CaPese characterized the bill as a narrow solution to a complex problem.

If the state of Tennessee gets to create the [sex] curriculum, it has to create something that umbrella reflects everyone.”

Legislators drafted and passed the bill in response to a recent Youth Risk Behavior Study that found that more than half of Memphis City high school students and just under 30 percent of middle school students have had sex. Both rates rank significantly higher than the national average.


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