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Column: Advocating for better sex education in NC

The CVS on Franklin Street's "family planning" aisle offers a number of contraceptives for purchase. Contraceptives like condoms can help decrease the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and lower the risk of pregnancy.

In October, North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson stated, in the context of the state’s sex education curriculum, that no school should “... be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.” 

Gov. Roy Cooper quickly condemned the comments, stating that Robinson “does not speak for North Carolina.”

But who does?

According to SEICUS, an advocacy organization that promotes holistic, transparent sex education reform in K-12 schools, North Carolina advocates have seen a “steady increase” in efforts to moderate the sex education curriculum across the state. In fact, N.C. state law requires that the curriculum must teach that a “faithful monogamous heterosexual marriage” is the best lifelong means of avoiding STDs. 

State bills on the docket in recent years include House Bill 196, which, had it been successful, would have imposed an “opt-in” policy for sex education, requiring parents and guardians to provide written permission for their children to participate in sex education instruction. 

First filed in 2019, Senate Bill 318 attempted to establish a 60-day notice for parents and guardians regarding sex education instruction materials. The bill would’ve given parents and guardians the option to formally object to the curriculum. 

It’s been proven time and time again that honest, healthy sex education — which means teaching about healthy sexual relationships, consent, STD prevention, contraceptives, sexual assault and the entire spectrum of sexuality, among other topics — prepares students better for the future. 

N.C. state law requires students in grades seven to nine to receive medically accurate sex education that includes instruction on these topics; however, advocates report that actual sex education instruction varies from county to county and does not entirely follow state law. Modes of instruction range from progressive programming to abstinence-only to “sexual risk avoidance” programs — in violation of North Carolina statutes.

Sexual health is a critical component of overall health, and when we deny students the right to unbiased, transparent health information, we put the next generation of North Carolina citizens at an astronomical disadvantage — especially female and LGBTQ youth, who are disproportionately affected by sexual assault, STD transmission and teen pregnancy. 

Who speaks for North Carolina? We do. Let’s fight for a fairer future for North Carolinian students.


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