A state lawmaker's attempt to make sexual education a requirement in public schools failed after strong discussion by supporters and opponents of the legislation.
"There is a problem, an epidemic problem that we're not addressing in this state," said State Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge.
Smith said given the statistics for sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies in Louisiana, it's time to change course. She said what is happening to some young girls is inexcusable.
"If you're not cognizant of the fact that we have children, 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old having babies in the state of Louisiana, not a mistake, but something that has happened to them and they know nothing about it, no one there to teach them about," said Smith.
Smith's bill to require sexual education in Louisiana public schools prompted passionate arguments from people on both sides of the issue before the House Education Committee.
Current law authorizes public elementary and secondary schools to offer sex education instruction in grades seven and above.
"It is a local decision with parents' involvement. This bill would take it out of the local hands and put it into a standardized statewide," said Dr. Elizabeth Myers, who was among those speaking against the bill.
Other opponents said sex education should happen in the home.
"Studies show that the biggest influence on 70% of teens regarding sex are their parents, and that's who we think should be the primary educator regarding sexual behavior, and so I would urge you to defeat this bill," said Dr. Will Hall with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
"I understand that we have issues, I get that. But I also understand that the children that go to these schools, the parents should have the responsibility of whether, or not they are involved in these types of courses, and our schools are already overworked with the amount of stuff they have to do now," continued Myers.
Rep. Smith said at-home sex education is not always possible.
"You know how many parents walk up to me and say, I cannot talk to my children about sex," she said.
And supporters of the legislation said having children gain more knowledge about their bodies and human sexuality will reduce sexual abuse.
"The statistics, the research shows this will actually prevent sexual abuse from happening," said Morgan Lamandre, Legal Director for STAR, which stands Sexual Trauma Awareness and Responsibility.
Supporters said many private and parochial school students already receive sex education.
After much back and forth, the bill failed to advance out of the House committee on a vote of 5 to 8.
"There are a lot of kids that are raising themselves, grandparents are about five years older than the children ,10 years older than the children. They've been abused. When does this cycle stop? When do you realize that as policymakers that we are a part of the problem?" said Smith.
The proposed new law would also require public school governing authorities to make sex education materials available to parents.