A UA student started a petition April 25 that demands Arkansas legislators to mandate a comprehensive sex education in public schools.
Ashley Miller, a UA sophomore studying to be a teacher, created the Care2 petition because of Arkansas’ high pregnancy rates in the past, according to a press release from Unbendable Media, a communications firm that works for Care2 Petitions.
Arkansas had the highest teen pregnancy rate in 2015, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy website.
In 2014, Arkansas had the highest teenage birth rates for 15 to 19 year olds, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Abstinence-only education or no education at all puts students at risk for unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases, Miller said on the Care2 Petitions website.
Sex education is not required in Arkansas public schools, but if it is taught, teachers much cover abstinence and stress it as the only effective protection against unplanned pregnancy, STDs, HIV or AIDS, according to Arkansas state law. Teaching about contraceptives is allowed, but it is not required, according to the law.
“We hope members of the Arkansas legislature will take note of our petition,” said Anna Zuccaro, who works with Unbendable Media. “We are still planning the next steps for the campaign, but the petition will be delivered to members of the Arkansas State Legislature once we feel there are enough signatures.”
The petition launched April 25 and has 15,328 signatures as of May 9, Zuccaro said. The signature goal is 16,000, according to the Care2 Petitions website.
There are no plans to send the petition to the U.S. Department of Education, Zuccaro said.