What happened
A study released this week found that about 1 in 4 teenage girls—and nearly half of the nation’s black girls—has at least one sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Emily J. Erbelding, an infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, said the findings proved that sexually transmitted infections have become “a hidden epidemic.” (The Boston Globe, free registration)

What the commentators said
These frightening figures show that the White House’s focus on abstinence-only sex-education “isn’t working,” said The Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial (free registration). “Certainly, abstinence is the best way to avoid STDs, but many teenagers are making the decision to have sex, and they need to know there are other ways to reduce the danger of disease or pregnancy.”

That’s precisely why we need more abstinence education, not less, said Karen Andrea in the Cincinnati Enquirer. This isn’t about simply telling kids to say, “No”—it’s about using “a holistic approach to providing youth the skills to make the best health decisions concerning sexuality,” and helping teens develop the “wide range of character-building and decision-making skills” they need to make responsible decisions about sex.

Abstinence is “a noble idea,” said Laura Sperling in the Sarasota, Fla., Herald-Tribune. But when kids see sex on movie screens, and when they see big-time politicians destroyed by carnal desire, “who can blame them for succumbing to lust?” Kids “mimic adults,” and as long as their role models don’t set the proper example, teens will never get it through their “thick skulls” that sex can have dangerous, even deadly, consequences.

That’s why parents will have to play a huge part in solving the problem, said the Las Vegas Sun in an editorial. Moms and dads “must educate themselves and then, as difficult as it may seem, talk to their teenage girls and boys about the consequences of these diseases and how to avoid them.”

“The statistics indisputably show that leaving comprehensive sex education, including information about STDs and their consequences, to parents is not working,” said The Salt Lake Tribune in an editorial. That’s where schools come in. “Education is the weapon teenagers need to fight this epidemic, and it's our responsibility to arm them.”