N.C. Senate Bill 279, passed by the N.C. House of Representatives last week in an almost unanimous 108-2 vote, could overturn several precedents set in the 2009 Healthy Youth Act if passed by the N.C. Senate. New requirements included in the bill state that information presented in sex ed classes can be peer reviewed and accepted by any experts — not just the sexual health experts identified in the 2009 act. Other provisions mandate sex trafficking awareness and prevention.
But Elizabeth Finley, spokeswoman for SHIFT N.C. — a nonprofit aiming to spread sexual health information — said it is hard to see the benefits of the bill.
She said some experts might not be as qualified as others to be included in sex ed curricula.
“What if you turned over engineering to a math expert?” she said. “Math is part of engineering, but it is not entirely, and it breaks down the beauty of the multidisciplinary aspect.”
While Finley said she recognizes the importance of sex trafficking awareness, she said she wonders whether its inclusion in sex ed will be helpful in the long run.
“There aren’t best practices in education that will help with prevention,” she said. “We could end up doing something that is ineffective and harmful.”
Amanda Kubic, co-editor of The Siren, a UNC magazine offering feminist perspectives on social justice issues, said she remembers having an abstinence-only sex ed program in high school.
“I don’t recall learning about contraception or how to use it or demonstrations,” she said.
She said she hopes the state will offer a comprehensive and fact-based sex ed program that allows a space for instructors to cover birth control, consent and LGBT sex ed.
“My hope would be that sex education will exclude some religious doctrine that is thrown around that may create unsubstantiated fear about sex,” Kubic said.
Grace Garner, president of Carolina Students for Life, said the bill barely changes current policies. She said sex ed curricula should continue to emphasize pure scientific data and be determined by science teachers in the classroom.
“However, the encouraging and discouraging of certain behaviors, such as abstinence versus using contraception, should be left up to parents,” Garner said.
She said if sex ed programs do not align with families’ religions or are presenting an unbalanced perspective on sex ed, parents should have additional options.
“It’s important that parents have the option of withdrawing students from that (sex) education if they feel like it doesn’t line up with their beliefs,” she said.