State News

N.C. Senate panel approves changes to sex ed bill

Posted June 10, 2009
Updated June 23, 2009

— The state Senate reworked a public school sex education bill from the House that finally cleared a committee Wednesday but pleased neither the bill's chief sponsor nor some social conservatives.

The bill - approved in the Senate Mental Health & Youth Services Committee - would require all school systems to offer information to students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades about the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

But the measure would be part of a larger reproductive health education curriculum that would still retain the abstinence-until-marriage curriculum that remains the current offering for nearly all 115 state school districts.

And parents would be able to keep their children from participating in classes with the more detailed information on contraceptives.

The House version would require schools to teach two separate tracks - one abstinence-based and the other the comprehensive sex education that's similar to what a handful of districts are allowed to teach.

Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, one of the House bill's primary sponsors, said she didn't ask for the changes from the Senate. The measure had been stuck in the Senate committee for a month because support had lagged in the chamber.

"It will not give parents the full spectrum of choices that we had wanted to offer them," Fisher said after the committee meeting. "It will limit our ability to get that solid, medically accurate information out to all children, and those who need it the most in a lot of cases."

The bill could be voted on Thursday by the full Senate. Negotiating a compromise between competing versions may follow if it's approved.

The House version also would require parents to fill out a permission slip for a child to participate in a track, or choose that their child get no sex education.

Opponents to the House bill didn't speak up in committee. But Bill Brooks with the North Carolina Family Policy Council said his group believes the Senate version is no better and would open the door - even in the abstinence curriculum - to teach that premarital sex is accepted.

Educators will use the bill provision that the new curriculum be "peer reviewed and accepted by professionals and credentialed experts" to attempt to crowd out the teaching that abstinence is the only certain way to prevent pregnancy and disease, according to Brooks.

"The state ought not to be teaching kids to do things that are not in their best interest, and having sex before they are married in a relationship to have sex and to have children is just not a good idea," he said.

But one conservative, Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, said he was pleased that parents would still be able to opt out their children from the comprehensive portion of the curriculum.

Christian conservatives argue the abstinence curriculum, which has been the default school offering in North Carolina since the mid-1990s, has been successful in reducing the number of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases nationwide and in North Carolina. Proponents of the curriculum change said the state remains in the top 10 in both categories.

Dr. Marian Earls, president of the North Carolina Pediatric Society, urged senators to ensure that teenagers have enough information to make informed choices about sexuality.

Otherwise, she said, it's like giving them "the keys to the car and refusing to give them information on how to drive."

8 Comments

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  • jplace Jun 11, 2009

    What part of "parental choice" do social conservatives not understand. The majority of parents want to have the ability to choose which curriculum their children get. No one has the right to force their beliefs on other people's children. By the way, there is overwhelming evidence that Abstinence only program work.

  • BigUNCFan Jun 10, 2009

    All I gots to say about the abstinence way is Bristol Palin.

    That should be argument enough for comprehensive sex ed.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 10, 2009

    lbzebulon - "I don't think the govt has the right to allow schools to teach ones children anything about a sex. This should be done by the parents or a physician."

    Well that is the good thing about this bill. You as a parent have to opt into the comprehensive sex ed program. Your kids don't have to learn it from the schools if you don't want them to.

    I am still wondering if abstinence only will be taught to all because it is required and then contradicted for those who opt into the comprehensive program. That would be confusing, I would think.

  • rand321 Jun 10, 2009

    When they teach the abstinence only, I hope they teach that includes, oral, frontage and other types of sexual contact. Pregancy, like Bristonl Palin, is one consequence of intercourse.. however diseases can come from all sorts of other contact that many teens do not define or consider sex. they are still virgins, technically.

    Its time our backwards evangelical theorcracy promoting leaders understand we all do not agree with their belief systems.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 10, 2009

    Let's reveal the real world "effectiveness" of abstinence. It's surely not good.

    It's completely dishonest for abstinence-only people to say that it's more effective than condoms and other real birth control.

    Abstinence statistics do not take into account all of its failures..."come on honey, let's just do it"...but it holds condoms to this standard.

    Plus, it's much better for a teenager to say "the condom didn't work" than "we just went at it".

  • lbzebulon Jun 10, 2009

    I don't think the govt has the right to allow schools to teach ones children anything about a sex. This should be done by the parents or a physician.

  • texasncgirl Jun 10, 2009

    Though abstinence is the way to go..it is totally unrealistic given our society today. Safe sex education should be given as well. Far too many young kids are having sex these days and don't understand the risks associated with it. Hence, the many teenage (and not even teenage) girls getting pregnant, and of course the kids that are contracting diseases from not knowing any better. Before any one pounces on me about this, I do believe that abstinence is a much much better way..but it's best to always be more realistic about reality rather than live in a bubble.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 10, 2009

    So if you opt for the comprehensive program, are your kids still required to go to the abstinence classes? It says that curricula is required, but the other is not.