A House-passed bill that would allow a state agency to survey some public school students on their sexual practices was killed Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee.
Critics of the measure, including Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office, said the legislation was too broad and would intrude on the privacy of students and families.
“We have some concerns and oppose the bill,” said Stafford Palmieri, policy director for Jindal.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and sponsor of the bill, said the survey was needed to help reduce skyrocketing rates of teen births and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Children 9 and 10 are having babies in Louisiana.” Smith told the committee.
Smith also cited statistics that show East Baton Rouge Parish ranked third in the state in 2009 in cases of chlamydia among women 15-19; third in cases of gonorrhea; and first in births to mothers under the age of 20.
“We’ve got to do something, folks,” she told the committee.
But the measure failed 1-2.
State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, voted for it.
The opponents were state Sens. Bodi White, R-Central and Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.
White questioned which students would be surveyed. Walsworth said he was concerned about what the questions would ask.
The proposal, House Bill 806, would allow the state Department of Education to survey students “about their risk behavior associated with chronic health conditions, including those related to sexual health.”
The state has done surveys for years under the general direction of the Centers for Disease Control.
However, Louisiana has opted out of asking more than a half-a-dozen questions dealing with student sexual practices.
Smith said proposed questions included whether students had engaged in sexual intercourse, their age and whether they had sexual relations with multiple partners.
The survey would be voluntary and anonymous.
Parents or legal guardians would have to provide written permission for students to take part.
An amendment added to the bill would prohibit the department from releasing copies of the results.
But Palmieri said the bill could pave the way for school districts and others to do surveys.
She said the proposal went beyond trying to combat sexual transmitted diseases and into sexual histories.
Kathleen Benfield, director of the American Family Association of New Orleans, said the survey would give girls already bombarded with sexual messages new reasons to question what constitutes normal sexual habits.
“This is the pornification of American girls,” Benfield said.
Other opponents included the Louisiana Family Forum, Louisiana Baptist Convention and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.