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North Carolina

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History + Timeline

1800s- pamphlets about venereal diseases, overall good hygiene, and the evils of prostitution and masturbation were widely distributed outside of schools.

 

1913- Chicago attempts to formally introduce sex-ed into their school systems. The Catholic Church helps shut it down. (7)

 

1914– The American Hygiene Association was founded to teach soldiers about sexual hygiene throughout the war.  They would later be involved in creating school curriculums.

 

1916– Planned Parenthood is founded in New York.

 

1919– A report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Children’s Bureau was released that suggested soldiers would have been better off if they had received sex instruction in school. (7)

 

1920s– resurgence of interest in getting sex-ed into schools.

Between 20-40% of U.S. school systems had programs in social hygiene and sexuality. (7)

 

1930s–  The U.S. Office of Education began to publish materials and train teachers.

 

1964– The medical director at Planned Parenthood, Mary Calderone, founded the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in part to challenge the American Social Hygiene Association.

 

1968– A pamphlet called “Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?” is widely distributed by Gordon Drake and James Hargis framing sex ed as a way to indoctrinate children into communism.  Thus began the scary rhetoric that sex-ed was teaching students to be homosexuals and that teachers were having sex in front of students. (7)

 

1980s– The AIDS epidemic takes hold.  Religious groups use this public health crisis to push their own agenda and convince school board members and legislative officials that abstinence-only sex education was the only way to keep kids “safe.”

 

1981– President Regan signed the Adolescent Family Life Act (aka the “Chastity Law” –yikes!). This law allowed federal funding to go to abstinence-only programming.  And

abstinence-only sexuality education (AOSE) and abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) programming became the norm in the US.

 

2004: Study is published showing the harms of abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs and the importance of investing in comprehensive sexuality education.  There are plenty more studies that have been published since reaffirming the same results. (It’s possible there were studies earlier than this, but this was the earliest one we could find.  Know of an earlier one? Please get in touch!)

 

2018: Under the Trump administration, Abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) is rebranded to be Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) (1). More federal funding goes towards pushing these programs.

 

And in North Carolina…

 

1995: State Statute 115C-81 was amended so that North Carolina public schools are required to teach abstinence-until-marriage for students in grades 7 through 9.   This curriculum did not need to be medically-accurate and could include gender bias. If a local school system wanted to make changes to the curriculum, they had to host a public forum to seek approval. 

 

2008-09: November 2008 to January 2009, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a survey of parents of public school students to assess their opinions on the current sex education curriculum in North Carolina. In general, survey results indicated that North Carolina parents/legal guardians wanted changes to how sex education is taught (1).

 

2009: the North Carolina General Assembly passed The Healthy Youth Act. Now, any school with grades 7 through 9 has to follow requirements of the Act as well as North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study, which includes Comprehensive Health Education for all grade levels.   A win!

 

2010: North Carolina implemented the Healthy Youth Act in both middle schools and high schools. Reproductive Health and Safety Education curriculum replaced the abstinence-until-marriage curricula for the 2010-2011 school year.

 

2013 and 2015: the Healthy Youth Act was amended requiring more information on preterm birth and human trafficking.

 

2019-2020 session: there are a few bills on the docket that address sex education for the North Carolina General Assembly to review.

Timeline

1995: State Statute 115C-81 was amended so that North Carolina public schools are required to teach abstinence-until-marriage for students in grades 7 through 9.

 

2008-09: November 2008 to January 2009, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a survey of parents of public school students to assess their opinions on the current sex education curriculum in North Carolina. In general, survey results indicated that North Carolina parents/legal guardians wanted changes to how sex education is taught (1).

 

2009: the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Healthy Youth Act

 

2010: North Carolina implemented the Healthy Youth Act in both middle schools and high schools. Reproductive Health and Safety Education curriculum replaced the abstinence-until-marriage curricula for the 2010-2011 school year.

 

2013 and 2015: the Healthy Youth Act was amended requiring more information on preterm birth and human trafficking.

 

2019-2020 session: the North Carolina General Assembly is looking at bills to change the way in which sex education is carried out in the State.  These are outlined below!

Notable legislation

Healthy Youth Act

 

North Carolina General Statute 115C-81.25. On health education.

 

North Carolina General Statute 115C-81.30. On reproductive health and safety education provided by local school administrative units.

Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)

Reproductive Health and Safety Education, i.e. sex education, is required for public schools with grades 7 through 9. While North Carolina does not have a standard state curriculum, according to SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens), local school systems must meet guidelines outlined in the Act and included in North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study for Comprehensive Health Education (2). 

 

North Carolina requires that both sex education and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) education are taught and that schools must provide factual, medically-accurate, age-appropriate and objective information to its students, including requirements to teach about:

  • Abstinence (which is still stressed for both sex and HIV education);
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive methods (like condoms, morning-after pills, etc.); and 
  • Devices for sexually transmitted disease (STD)/sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention.

 

There are no requirements for curriculum content to include sexual orientation or consent.

 

At this time, parents/legal guardians do not have to provide consent for their child to participate in Reproductive Health and Safety Education, but North Carolina school districts do offer an opt-in or opt-out process as a way to allow parents/legal guardians to decide whether or not their child will participate in it. Most school districts offer an opt-out form that parents/legal guardians can complete to withdraw their child from all or any part of the curricula before it begins.

 

Parents/legal guardians can also review any of the curricula and any materials that will be used to teach their child. As with other instructional materials, many schools leave sex education materials in their media centers. 

What the kids are actually learning...

The Guttmacher Institute found that content requirements for sex education in North Carolina still stress abstinence (3). This is also evident after reviewing North Carolina General Statute 115C-81.30 which references abstinence several times as part of the reproductive health and safety instruction that local school administrative units shall follow (4).

 

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has Healthful Living: Health Education Essential Standards, which offers content outlines (5). “Decision Making: Prevention of Sexual Risk-Taking” is available online and is a sample graphic organizer intended for Grade 9 students following concepts that they would have learned on: 

  • Abstinence;
  • Prevention of sexually transmitted diseases; and 
  • Unintended pregnancy. 

Within the decision-making model are “open-ended questions to assist students with critical thinking. The goal is to assist the student with his or her ability to make a healthy decision (6).”

Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?

As part of its mission to strengthen “the quality of Health Education within a coordinated school health program”, the North Carolina School Health Training Center offers professional development courses, including two online NC G.S. 115c-81(e1) modules at NC Healthy Youth Act to help public schools teach the essential standards and other topics required under the Healthy Youth Act

 

North Carolina legislators are pushing the following bills that would see a change in the way sex education is carried out in their State:

 

House Bill 196 on Parental Consent for Sex Education was filed in February 2019 and would require an opt-in approach to sex-ed each school year;

House Bill 315 on Instructional Material Selection passed its second reading in April 2019 and would require changes to the selection of instructional materials; and

Senate Bill 318 on a Parents’ Right to Know was filed in March 2019 and is about curriculum and instruction.

 

Learn about the state of sex-ed in the other states! 

Written by: Lindsay Jones Singh

Edited by: Teri Bradford

Have info to add? Please get in touch!

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+ References

(1) Survey Research Unit Department of Biostatistics Gillings School of Global Public Health University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina. “PDF.” Chapel Hill, NC, April 2009.https://files.appcnc.gethifi.com/news-and-publications/research-and-publications/2009_Parent_Opinion_Survey.pdf.

 

(2) SHIFT NC. “Healthy Youth Act FAQs | SHIFT NC.” SHIFT NC: Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens. SHIFT NC, Cone Health Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed December 15, 2019. https://www.shiftnc.org/resources/for-schools/healthy-youth-act-faqs.

 

(3) Guttmacher Institute. “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute For Population Research Innovation and Dissemination, December 1, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education.

 

(4) Reproductive health and safety education provided by local school administrative units, § 115C-81.30 (1972). 

 

(5) North Carolina. Department of Public Instruction. “Healthful Living: Standard Course of Study and Grade Level Competencies:: State Publications.” Healthful living: standard course of study and grade-level competencies:: State Publications. Healthful Living Section, Department of Public Instruction, 2006. https://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/645573.

(6) “Decision Making: Prevention of Sexual Risk-Taking” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, pp.4-9), https://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/curriculum/healthfulliving/organizers/health/health-9.pdf

(7) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.

(1) Survey Research Unit Department of Biostatistics Gillings School of Global Public Health University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina. “PDF.” Chapel Hill, NC, April 2009.https://files.appcnc.gethifi.com/news-and-publications/research-and-publications/2009_Parent_Opinion_Survey.pdf.

 

(2) SHIFT NC. “Healthy Youth Act FAQs | SHIFT NC.” SHIFT NC: Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens. SHIFT NC, Cone Health Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed December 15, 2019. https://www.shiftnc.org/resources/for-schools/healthy-youth-act-faqs.

 

(3) Guttmacher Institute. “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute For Population Research Innovation and Dissemination, December 1, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education.

 

(4) Reproductive health and safety education provided by local school administrative units, § 115C-81.30 (1972). 

 

(5) North Carolina. Department of Public Instruction. “Healthful Living: Standard Course of Study and Grade Level Competencies:: State Publications.” Healthful living: standard course of study and grade-level competencies:: State Publications. Healthful Living Section, Department of Public Instruction, 2006. https://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/645573.

(6) “Decision Making: Prevention of Sexual Risk-Taking” (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, pp.4-9), https://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/curriculum/healthfulliving/organizers/health/health-9.pdf

(7) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.