NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Teenagers are exposed to a lot on social media, but in terms of risky sexual behavior, there is concern that more education is needed.
"Louisiana, in particular Baton Rouge and New Orleans, lead the country in HIV-positive tests, as far as HIV-AIDS," said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.
Morrell is pushing a bill in the nascent legislative session to allow public schools in New Orleans to survey students about their sexual health.
Currently, state law lets schools offer instruction in sex education in grades seven and higher, but it must be integrated into an existing course of study such as biology, physical hygiene or physical education.
"We are also a state that has an aggressive stance that we only teach abstinence education. Now if you look at sexually transmitted diseases leading the country, abstinence-only education - obviously that's not working," Morrell said.
Orleans Parish School Board President Seth Bloom agrees.
"Abstinence is great, and it's great to teach that, however it doesn't seem to be doing the job here in Orleans Parish since we rank among the nation, one of the highest for HIV and STD and teen pregnancies in the country. So since we're behind in all those key matrices, we've got to take it to the next level," Bloom said.
Parents interviewed for this story said they think the legislation has merit, but one grandmother waiting outside a local high school did not share those opinions.
"I think there should be sex education in school, but I think they should have it at a certain level and bring it forth to the kids, but then let the parents be the ones to actually, you know, talk to their kids about it," Hazel Marshall said.
Under Morrell's bill, students would only be able to take part in the survey if their parents or guardians gave consent.
"There is going to be a parental opt-out, so if some parents have objections to this, they don't have to participate in it," Bloom said.
Morrell believes information from such a survey would prove to be very helpful to school districts as they seek to better tailor sex education to information students need.
"So that our kids are not doing risky things that get them to be a young teen mother, or to contract AIDS in high school," Morrell said.
"It's important for at least at that junior high age that we start getting the kids that education," said Bloom.
Under Morrell's legislation, students could not be tested, quizzed or surveyed about their personal or family beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.