Texas officials deny reports of chlamydia "epidemic" at abstinence-only high school

Crane ISD superintendent massaged the truth "to be proactive and do what we felt like was best for kids"

Published May 8, 2015 2:27PM (EDT)

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A recent chlamydia outbreak at a small west Texas high school with no official sex education policy appears to be much smaller than initially reported, according to state health officials. Despite statements from the Crane Independent School District superintendent citing 20 confirmed cases of the sexually transmitted infection among the nearly 300 students at Crane High School, reports now indicate that the "epidemic" was actually much smaller. But that's still a problem.

According to The Guardian, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed three cases of chlamydia in Crane County over the past several weeks, which Crane ISD superintendent Jim Rumage described as "several cases" in a letter reportedly sent to district parents last week. Rumage also described the STI's prevalence as being "on the rise" and said the number of cases in nearby counties "have been significant."

Clearly, that's not the case. Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Christine Mann told the San Antonio Express-News that there had been just eight cases of chlamydia reported on behalf of all of Crane County since Jan. 1 of this year, refuting Rumage's claims. The superintendent defended his decision to massage the truth in his letter to parents, telling local news outlet NewsWest 9 on Thursday that he was "trying to be proactive and do what we felt like was best for kids."

"Evidently they had tested a lot of people but they didn’t have any confirmation back and we misunderstood what it was and I was just trying to be proactive," Rumage said.

The superintendent also defended the district's endorsement of abstinence-only sex education, calling for students to refrain from having sex to avoid the chlamydia epidemic that apparently doesn't exist. But in his call for more abstinence, Rumage actually offered an impeccable example of why it's still a huge problem that Crane ISD doesn't offer comprehensive sex education, even if students don't face an imminent risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

"Anybody that is abstinent is not going to catch this," Rumage said. "You can’t catch it off a doorknob or whatever like some people are thinking."

And why, exactly, might people be thinking they can catch chlamydia from a doorknob? Oh, right: Because the state doesn't require they be taught any differently.

By Jenny Kutner

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