There's a new plan for teaching your kids about sex in Tennessee, and that plan is stirring some controversy.
News 5 looked into the bill and learned its language has been mocked across the country, but a local representative said it's actually more subtle than many people might think.
Teaching kids about sex in school has been a source of controversy for years, but now a bill passed by Tennessee's General Assembly this year has added to it.
The premise is that all Tennessee students would get a strictly abstinence-based family life education.
Tennessee?s First District State Representative Jon Lundberg said that?s because Tennessee has the seventh-highest teen birth rate in the nation and the eleventh-highest HIV infection rate in the nation. "The shift is that the main core needs to be an abstinence-based approach. Not, 'hey, I know everybody's having sex, so when you have sex do this, do this, [and] do this.? That's not it,'" said Lundberg.
At the focal point of the debate is something else entirely: if the bill becomes law, parents can sue if their kids are taught anything that promotes what's called "gateway sexual activity."
We pulled the amendment on the bill and found out it's defined as "sexual contact encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior." Some say that opens the door to punishment for just about anything, like holding hands, hugging or kissing.
Lundberg tells News 5 that's not the case. He said in its definition,? gateway sexual activity? points to sexual contact. That?s something Lundberg says is clearly defined in state code as including intimate body parts. "The groin area, genitalia, a bosom, buttocks, that's it. Holding hands is not intimate sexual contact," Lundberg said.
What will be strict is the just how family life curriculum is taught. Everything comes through the perspective of an abstinence first education, which is a relief for moms like Jenny Egbert. "Are they actually really ready for that? They think it's a simple choice but the consequences could go on for a lifetime, and I don't think they're mentally mature enough to make that choice," Egbert said.
The bill can be a point of controversy for others who feel letting teens know about contraception first is the right move. Lundberg said safe sex would still be taught under this bill, but it would still come through an abstinence first perspective.