Local Politics

Bill Would Change Sex Education Curriculum in N.C. Classrooms

Posted May 16, 2007 8:20 p.m. EDT

— A bill that would expand the scope of sex education in North Carolina public schools is firing up those for it and those against it.

Raleigh Catholic Diocese Monsignor Michael Clay delivered a letter to lawmakers opposing House Bill 879, which would modify the state's current policy on the matter to promote safe-sex practices.

Clay said the current abstinence-before-marriage curriculum should not be changed.

"Why would children need to be exposed to this kind of language and these kinds of graphic depictions?" he said.

Despite calls for abstinence, more than 60 percent of high school seniors say they have had sex, according to the bill.

Supporters say the changes supplement the abstinence philosophy with more information.

Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake, says sex education varies in schools when it comes to contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. He wants more comprehensive courses everywhere and argues the proposed change promotes abstinence, but acknowledges reality.

"The actuality is kids are doing it," Harrell said. "And if they are going to do it, let's not keep our heads in the sand."

The church complains legislation is dangerous because it promotes tolerance of other sexual orientation and crosses out the words "abstinence before marriage."

"Any other relationships outside of that would be considered immoral on our part," Clay said.

Teen pregnancy rates are dropping and some surveys show most parents oppose more comprehensive sex education when they see the curriculum.

"What this bill would do is completely throw out that message and replace it with one that promotes condoms and contraceptive use and also alternative sexual behaviors," said John Rustin with the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

With a long history of contentious debate, conservative groups are lining up to fight the broader sex education mandate. Supporters counter that information, not denial, is the best protection for teens.

"Let's be aware that they're going to be sexually active and that they need to be protected," Harrell said.

Some critics say if North Carolina alters its sex education policy, it could lose millions in federal school funding.