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Wake Administrators Want To Expand Sex Education Beyond Abstinence

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Wake County School board had a heated debate about sex education Tuesday. School system officials recommended that Wake County keep abstinence as its basic message, but expand what students are taught in grades 10 through 12.

"We did maintain that abstinence would be the expected standard for school-age students," said assistant superintendent Cindi Jolly.

The Wake County school board recommended that electives be taught in grades 10 through 12 with parental consent. The electives would provide information beyond abstinence -- information that is already being taught in school systems like Chapel Hill-Carrboro. It also gives school staff more leeway in talking to students about contraception -- an idea that is not sitting well with some school board members.

"When it comes to personal medical health sexuality issues, the parent is the king," board member Bill Fletcher said.

Some school officials believe their hands are tied when kids need more information.

"It's splitting hairs. Truly, it is. They feel they are walking very much in a gray area. They are asking for clarification or to remove the gray area," said associate superintendent Jo Baker.

Last spring, protesters made it known they do not want the schools teaching comprehensive sex education, which would include lessons on contraceptives, sexual orientation and disease control. Parents at Tuesday's meeting were divided on the issue.

"It seems to be that 10th, 11th and 12th-graders could really use some information. It may go over the heads by the ones in the 7th grade, but by the time they get to 11th-grade, they may need it very badly," parent Janet Palmquist said.

"Sex should be taught in the home. My mother taught me, my father taught my brothers and I think it should stay that way," said a parent opposed to a comprehensive plan.

School system officials said their recommendations follow the letter of the state's law. However, the state law only applies to students in the seventh- through ninth-grade.

The comprehensive proposal is backed up by Raleigh NOW and Planned Parenthood.

Another public forum on the issue is scheduled for Oct. 21. The school board is expected to vote Nov. 19.