New legislation could allow sex ed surveys in New Orleans schools


State Sen. J.P. Morrell. - SHARON TURNER
  • State Sen. J.P. Morrell.
As part of his 2015 Legislative package, State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, is working towards comprehensive sexual assault legislation, including how schools and universities respond to sexual assault. His first bill, however, is a measure to allow for school surveys to screen for sexual health risks among students in New Orleans public schools.

Currently, public elementary and secondary schools offer sex education through biology or phys. ed. classes, but schools are prohibited from "being tested, quizzed, or surveyed about their personal beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion." Morrell's measure, Senate Bill 31, would add an exemption to allow schools' governing authorities to anonymously survey students "about their risk behaviors, including those related to sexual health."

Morrell says he is filing the measure because State Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, has attempted year after year to pass comprehensive sex ed legislation statewide but is met with resistance from the Legislature.

"We haven't had success doing it statewide, so we're doing a local option," Morrell told Gambit, adding that New Orleans' high rates of HIV and teen pregnancy signal that a change is needed in sex ed courses. Through the measure, schools can assess the needs of the students before teaching sexual health.

State Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, also is filing a sex education bill in the House.

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