South Carolina’s head-in-the-sand approach to sex education has been used in public schools for 25 years, and the state still ranks high in teen pregnancies, teen STDs and high school dropouts.

Sadly, a bill designed to educate students more thoroughly about sex is stalled in a House subcommittee.

Opponents fear the change would shift the focus from being abstinent until marriage. Proponents insist abstaining from sex until marriage is still the primary message, but additional information about reproductive health and pregnancy prevention will be included in high school.

It’s time to get smarter about what is taught as sex education.

Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, along with Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, submitted the legislation because they believe educating students more thoroughly is the way to go.

In the present school plan, supported by Superintendent Mick Zais, the only information about contraceptives is “future family planning.”

In addition to his concerns about diminishing the message of sex only within marriage, he is worried about additional costs associated with requiring teachers of sex ed to be certified in health education.

It’s a peculiar world where schools withhold information from students instead of imparting information, and where admin- istrators advocate for uncertified instructors over those who are certified.

Young people have always gotten, and will continue to get, information about sex and about contraceptives. It might be from watching the popular-culture perspective on television or from listening to friends who might, or might not, have sound information.

Wouldn’t it be better for students to learn research-based information supported by leading medical or health organizations?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to stop keeping secrets from students who will fill that gap of knowledge with something, right or wrong? If it’s wrong, the consequences could be critical to their health and well-being.

As Rep. Skelton said, the cost of teen pregnancies is exponential. Often teens drop out of school. That means they get low-paying jobs. That means they depend on government services.

And that means their children will be at a disadvantage.

Research published in 2008 by the Society for Adolescent Medicine determined that teaching about contraception was not associated with increased risk of adolescent sexual activity or STDs. Indeed, adolescents who received comprehensive sex education had a lower risk of pregnancy than adolescents who received abstinence-only or no sex education.

House Education Chairman Phil Owens said he’s encouraging both sides to reach an agreement before another hearing is scheduled.

But if an agreement isn’t reached, members should proceed anyway and take off their blinders.

Teaching youth about gun safety doesn’t inspire them to become trigger happy. Teaching them about sex education, health issues and pregnancy prevention does not inspire them to engage in sex.