New Sex Ed Law Implementation Underway
Special Report - September 3, 2009
The North Carolina State Board of Education was briefed yesterday about the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) preparations for implementation of the state’s new sex education law. Governor Beverly Perdue signed the “Healthy Youth Act” (HYA) into law in June 2009, and the new curriculum requirements for all public school students in grades 79 will go into effect beginning with the 2010-11 school year. The HYA amends the state’s nearly 15 yearold Abstinence-Until-Marriage law to include more information on contraception, and removes the previous requirement for a public hearing before school districts could implement a contraceptive-based approach.
Dr. David Gardner, section chief for Healthy Schools at DPI, presented a summary of the new law to members of the Globally Competitive Students committee at their September 2 meeting. As he pointed out, some of the changes are significant and some are minor. A key change in terminology replaces the curriculum’s title “Abstinence-Until Marriage” (AUM) with “Reproductive Health and Safety Education.” Still, Gardner pointed out that the legislation maintains “an abstinence theme,” including all of the existing requirements for information to be covered in an AUM course. Also remaining are requirements that local school districts make sex education materials available for parental review and allow parents to remove their child from objectionable instruction.
The changes highlighted by Gardner include the addition of instruction on the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the “effectiveness and safety” of all FDA-approved methods of contraception, sexual assault and abuse, and healthy relationships. Members of the Board expressed particular interest in another changethe removal of the requirement for a public hearing before a local school board may expand the curriculum beyond AUM. In response to an inquiry regarding the scope of a local school board’s authority to expand the curriculum, Gardner stated that while the “content identified [in the law] provides a framework … if a local board wanted to add additional content, they would have the ability to do that,” without having to hold a public hearing to receive parental input.
The major effort by DPI to implement the HYA is the establishment of a Healthy Youth Act Collaborative of 25 members, including DPI staff, teachers, parents, representatives from higher education and public health educators, among others. The Collaborative will work to achieve five objectives, including developing and implementing a statewide communication plan to educate schools, parents, and community members about the changes in the curriculum, providing technical assistance to schools, identifying information and materials that meet the new statutory requirements, offering professional development to instructors, and identifying local resources to “promote parent and community support.” The group’s timeline seeks to have resources and statewide partners begin providing technical assistance and professional development in January 2010. Some members of the Board suggested that the legislators responsible for sponsoring the HYA in the General Assembly be included in the Collaborative’s efforts, since the Board expects those sponsors to have the best understanding of the legislative intent of the changes.
In response to questions regarding funding for the changes, Gardner referred to two federal grants that the state plans to leverage. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides 23 states, including North Carolina, with a grant focused on efforts to improve adolescent health, while another unnamed federal program provides North Carolina a grant for efforts to prevent the spread of HIV. As the North Carolina Family Policy Council previously reported, Title V funding from the federal government for abstinence education programs ended this summer. The funding stream had provided $50 million a year in block grants to states exclusively for the teaching of abstinence education, and North Carolina typically received about $1.2 million of these funds.
“North Carolina’s sex education law has already required DPI to provide oversight and resources to ensure the proper and effective teaching of authentic Abstinence-Until-Marriage,” according to Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “For 14 years, that requirement has been virtually ignored. A long and hard-fought battle in the General Assembly this year reaffirmed AUM as the standard we set for children in North Carolina, and the State Board of Education and DPI have a duty to respect, support, and promote that standard. Parents, educators and legislators who are interested in sex education should monitor the development of the new curricula as it is implemented at the state and local levels to make sure that the instruction in skills, strategies and information that students need remains focused on abstinence and tells kids the truth about sex.”
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