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This Get Yourself Tested month, we are seeing some counterproductive legislation from North Carolina lawmakers.

In North Carolina, sex education is called Reproductive Health and Safety Education. A state law passed in 2009 stating that all local school systems must provide medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education that includes information on abstinence, sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention, contraceptive methods, and sexual assault & abuse risk reduction in grades 7-9.

On paper, this seems relatively comprehensive, especially given that many of North Carolina’s neighbors adhere to a strict abstinence-only or abstinence-mostly curriculum. Not to mention that North Carolina is one of only 13 states that mandate that information be medically accurate.

And yet, North Carolina ranks 6th highest in the nation for rates of STDs.

Studies have shown that there is a link between the quality of sex-ed and the incidence of STDs in a state. So, it stands to reason that with such high rates of STDs, the North Carolina legislature would be intent on making it easier for students in public schools to receive sexual health information -- not harder. And although North Carolina legislators are not advocating for abstinence-only instruction, which is often considered unethical, they are pushing legislation that would be burdensome on school, teachers, parents, and students.

House Bill 196: Parental Consent for Sex Education, requires that parents of students opt them into sexual health education. Currently, parents have the ability to opt out.

As a SIECUS report indicates,

“Opt-in policies create unnecessary hurdles that prevent students from accessing the sex education they have a right to receive. They are designed to make accessing sex education in schools more difficult, overlooking the fact that parents/guardians have a say under both opt-in and opt-out policies.”

The clear result of this law would be to reduce the number of students who can access sex education in school.

House Bill 315: Instructional Materials Selection, creates cumbersome requirements on schools to:

  1. Notify parents any time health and safety instructional and supplemental materials are adopted, amended, or modified

  2. Develop online and physical repositories of all materials available and make both available to the public

  3. Create a Local Media Review Committee to answer complaints from any member of the general public that instructional materials in any subject are “unfit.”

  4. Creates a State Community Media Review Committee that would allow any member of the public to appeal a local board of education decision regarding instructional materials in any subject.

Schools are likely to be inundated with coordinated complaint campaigns from ideological opponents to instructional materials. These opponents do not need to have children in the schools or even reside locally. Schools will need to undertake the unwieldy process of informing parents in all grades when even minute updates are made to materials. Schools will also need to invest money and time in developing physical and digital spaces to host materials repositories.

Senate Bill 318: A Parent’s Right to Know, also inconveniently requires that:

  1. Local boards of education develop a physical central repository and an online repository for all health and safety materials so that any member of the general public can access them.

  2. Notify parents any time health and safety instructional and supplemental materials are adopted, amended, or modified

  3. Provide parents with the right to review all materials

  4. Allows parents to consent to their children’s participation in sexual education programs

Much as with HB 315, schools will need to undertake a burdensome and lengthy review process any time materials are selected, amended, or updated – even if updates are minor. Schools will also need to invest in physical and digital spaces to host materials repositories.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic educators provide evidence-based and comprehensive sex ed, but North Carolina’s public schools are in the position to reach far more young people. These bills present only roadblocks to sexual health education in a state with record high rates of STDs.

What can you do?

  1. Get Yourself Tested today at one of the Planned Parenthood South Atlantic health centers. Planned Parenthood is committed to helping young people get the tools they need to stay safe and healthy -- that includes helping them know their STD status.  

  2. Contact the primary sponsors of these three bills to let them know that you object to the creation of hurdles to comprehensive sex education for North Carolina’s youth

House Bill 196 - Tweet at Representative Larry Pittman at @GunsAndBibles82

House Bill 315 - Tweet at Representative Linda P. Johnson at @lpj4569

Senate Bill 318 - Tweet at Senator Ralph Hise at @RalphHise

Tags: STDs, GYT, Get Yourself Tested

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