Local News

Sex Education Vote Leads To Debate In Wake County

Posted January 6, 2004

— The way sex education is taught in Wake County Schools soon could change.

Tuesday night, the school board voted in favor of teaching abstinence when sex is mentioned in the classroom. Based on that 5-3 vote, the board is expected to pass the abstinence program in a formal vote during its next meeting Jan. 6.

Board member Bill Fletcher proposed returning to an abstinence-before-marriage plan. If formally approved, the plan would eliminate a new elective at the high-school level, which includes discussion about choices, contraceptives, sexuality and diseases.

Though the policy involves one specific class at Wakefield High School, opponents are worried it will affect all 109,000 students in the system -- that it could find its way into other classes, like English and political science.

"Anything that brings up sexuality, am I supposed to do abstinence?" Charlotte Turpin, of the

North Carolina Association of Educators,

asked rhetorically. "I don't know."

The exact wording that board members approved Tuesday night reads: "Any discussion of sexual subjects or issues must include the abstinence standard."

Opponents fear the langauge is unclear and that the "abstinence standard" would extend beyond just sexual education courses and into all classrooms.

"That's going to take lots of time, dollars, energy, man hours, to explain to a staff of 13,000 people exactly what you mean," Turpin said.

Carol Parker is one of two new school board members who voted for the abstinence proposal. She admitted the wording needs work before a final vote.

"That is not the intent, to cause any confusion to our teachers," Parker said. "We want to actually make it very clear to our teachers what the standard is and communicate that."

Parker said civic teachers could still talk about issues like Strom Thurmond's illegitmate child. She just wants abstinence reinforced in sex education -- and some parents agree.

"Children should be drilled with that from an early age," parent Priya Suresh said. "And drilling it in school is not going to hurt."

Opponents to the abstinence-only stance, like Turpin, want to make sure the lesson stays in the right classroom.

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