Local Politics

Bill would require schools to offer sex ed beyond abstinence

Posted May 18, 2009

— Should sex education in North Carolina public schools go beyond an abstinence-until-marriage curriculum to include comprehensive information about what teens should know if they decide to have sex?

House Bill 88, which recently passed in the state House, would require school systems to offer a second curriculum that would also teach methods of birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

What sex ed is best sex ed? What sex ed is best sex ed?

Parents of students in seventh through ninth grades would be able to choose either curriculum – the first being that abstinence until marriage is the only certain way to prevent teen pregnancy – or they could opt out of the program.

According to a poll results released Monday by the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, 91.8 percent of those parents surveyed believe sex education should be taught in public schools, and 93.5 percent thought public health officials should be the ones to choose what is taught.

Parents were also asked which topics were important – 99.6 percent rated as important the transmission and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS and 97.1 percent the effectiveness and failure rates of birth control methods, including condoms.

Where parents disagree is what should be taught.

"To say as a general rule (that) nobody should have sex until they get married is unrealistic," said Leslie Sheitman, a Cary mother of three – two of whom are in a public elementary school and one in a private middle school.

A child neurologist, Sheitman supplies her children with age-appropriate books on sex-related issues. She believes schools should supplement that by offering a choice of a health curriculum that honestly lays out abstinence, intimacy and contraception.

Without medically accurate information, she said, she believes "kids will talk to each other, and the misinformation will spread like wildfire."

"I don't think teaching them about preventing pregnancies is going to give anybody ideas they don't already have," she said.

But opponents of the bill, disagree, saying that offering a more comprehensive sex education curriculum would promote sex, as well as alternative sexual behaviors.

"I don't think it's an effective program if you have an 11-to-14-year-old kid using condoms," said Cindy Winter-Harley, a mother of three boys.

As an employee of LifeCare Pregnancy Center in Raleigh, Winter-Hartley said she has spoken to thousands of adolescents in the Wake County Public School System about the emotional complications of sex and the benefits of waiting until marriage.

"It's not just a simple pat on the head of 'OK guys, don't do it,'" she said. "There's so much more to sex."

Winter-Hartley said she has received stacks of notes and letters from students struggling with sexual issues who have thanked her for her abstinence message.

But Sheitman counters that North Carolina's high teen pregnancy rate – 63 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 in 2007, according to the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign – proves that the abstinence message, alone, is not working. She also points out that, under state legislation and the proposed bill, parents can choose.

"If you don't want your child to learn any of this stuff, they don't have to," Sheitman said. "Why should that option for other people be something you're trying to prevent?"

Winter-Hartley worries abstinence until marriage would get lost in the lessons of safe sex.

"The best thing we can do is continually reinforce the message that you are worth waiting for," she said.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • wmh5146 May 20, 2009

    "Statistics shown that "Abstinence only" is a dismal failure as a form of birth control." --This statement makes no sense. Abstinence is the ONLY true form of birth control. To "control" something, means "to have power over". Abstinence is the only real way to have power over not getting pregnant or not contracting an STD.

  • haggis basher May 20, 2009

    "How about they just keep this garbage out of the schools all together. None of it does any good and it is just a waste of time and money."
    Strange that all studies show that simply is not true. Countries with the highest rates of sex ed have the lowest rate of teen pregnancy and abortions. Ignorance is very rarely cheaper or better than education.

  • haggis basher May 20, 2009

    "Abstinence Education does work. Just ask ME! I waited until I was married to have sex and it was worth the wait."
    There are always people that are well off the bell curve. Statistics shown that "Abstinence only" is a dismal failure as a form of birth control.

  • wmh5146 May 19, 2009

    Abstinence Education does work. Just ask ME! I waited until I was married to have sex and it was worth the wait.

  • squawk08 May 19, 2009

    Of course we would not need sex ed in the schools if all parents did they jobs, but we know that just does not happen. I dont understand people who complain about welfare moms but who do not want to educate kids so they do not get pregnant or get stds. Stop the cycle when they are young, lets just hope this training will be in your face and not a light happy go lucky video or powerpoint on the dangers of sex.

  • ambidextrous cat May 19, 2009

    NC Reader:

    Agreed. We should do what is best for all children not a select minority.

  • TurboRockShow May 19, 2009

    Abstinence until marriage doesn't work if there is no legal marriage for you because you are a homosexual. Think about it.

  • Eduardo1 May 19, 2009

    I think we are getting sex ed every day from our President & Congress every day

  • Bendal1 May 19, 2009

    This is a win-win for everyone. Those parents who believe "oh, my precious snowflake will NEVER have sex before marriage" can enroll them in the "don't do it" classes, and the more practical parents can enroll their kids in the "don't do it, but if you do, here's how to do it safely" classes.

  • wanderer May 18, 2009

    time4real - guess i'm missing something there so I have to ask what the 'l you talking about?