Bill Would Allow Comprehensive Sex Ed Statewide
Special Report - March 11, 2009
The North Carolina House Education Committee allowed little debate Tuesday morning as it passed a bill that would change the standard for sexuality education in public schools from abstinence until marriage (AUM) to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). HB 88 Healthy Youth Act would implement a two track system for sexuality education in North Carolina public schools that places students in a comprehensive sexuality education program in grades 7, 8, and 9 unless parents opt out and ask for their children to be placed in an abstinence until marriage program.
Current North Carolina law requires that students be taught that abstinence from all sexual activity until they are in a “mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage” is the expected standard and is “the only certain means of avoiding out-of-wedlock pregnancy, [and] sexually transmitted diseases...including HIV/AIDS.” Currently, any local school board may choose to implement a comprehensive sex education program after receiving parental input during a public hearing and making the objectives and instructional materials for the proposed program available to the public for 60 days. However, bill sponsors including Rep. Susan Fisher (DBuncombe) and Winkie Wilkins (DPerson) see this process as “cumbersome,” “politically charged,” and “convoluted” because parents have historically rejected attempts by school boards to change the sex education programs after reviewing the materials for themselves. Estimates are that between 10 to 13 of North Carolina’s 115 school systems have opted for CSE. HB 88 would require all 115 school systems to change their standard sexuality education program from one focused on abstinence to one focused on contraception.
While North Carolina’s AUM program emphasizes abstinence until marriage and respect for marriage, it also presents students with information about contraceptives in the context of failure rates among adolescent and teen populations. However, the proposed CSE program addresses not only marriage but also “committed relationships,” which may include homosexual, bisexual, and multi-partner relationships. Additionally, the CSE program only addresses abstinence from sexual intercourse, leading students to believe that they can engage in non-intercourse sexual activities and be “safe” from HIV/AIDS and STDs. It also requires instruction on ALL FDA approved methods of preventing pregnancy and “reducing the risk” of contracting STDs.
Children whose parents do not return a form at the beginning of the year stating that they want their children enrolled in an AUM program will be enrolled in the comprehensive sexuality education program. More information on the changes proposed in the bill can be found in our Issue Brief on HB 88.
Despite the controversial nature of the bill, less than 30 minutes was allowed for debate in committee before the chairman called for a vote on the bill. The committee voted 3221 to send the bill with a favorable report to the House Health Committee for additional consideration before it goes to the House floor for a vote.
“Since abstinence until marriage was implemented as the expected standard for sexuality education in North Carolina, the teen pregnancy rate, the teen abortion rate, and STD rates have dropped dramatically in the state,” according to John Rustin, director of government relations for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Abstinence education has proven its effectiveness and offers the highest standard of responsibility and healthy behavior for our school-aged children. It should remain the standard in North Carolina’s public schools.”
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