Six months ago, I wrote about North Carolina’s sex education curriculum. Since 2009, schools have been required by the Healthy Youth Act to go beyond abstinence-only education — despite that these classes lacked sufficient time, structure, and teacher training — to make sure that students were receiving thorough and consistent information. Still, I posited that NC wasn’t “screwing its students quite as much as before.”
Now, with Senate Bill 279, it seems like most of our elected officials are choosing to do worse by our youth instead of better.
The bill starts innocuously enough. It outlines the standards one must meet in order to become a licensed counselor. However, Section 3 then states that the “information conveyed during instruction [of sexual education courses] shall be objective and based upon scientific research that is peer-reviewed and accepted by professionals and credentialed experts in the fields of any of the following: sexual health education, adolescent psychology, behavioral counseling, medicine, human anatomy, biology, ethics, or health education.”
This is a change from the original phrasing: “credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education.” And that widened definition of “credentialed expert” is what poses a problem. It allows most anybody, including conservative religious groups, like Focus on Family, to have input in the curriculum, possibly creating a shift back towards abstinence-only education with little oversight in how teens who are not heterosexual or who are sexually active will be portrayed.
We also know that abstinence-only education wasn’t as effective as the curriculum we have now. (I am still not happy with the current standards, but it is better than the direction it could move with this bill.)
Bill 279 passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 108-2, obviously showing support from both sides of the aisle. However, maybe that’s because the bill also includes a section that mandates sex trafficking be taught in the curriculum. With the requirements for licensing counselors and this important addition, many representatives might be taking the bad with the good.
That’s not okay here. We can not move backwards in our thinking, especially when it comes to our children. NC no longer pays for the advanced degrees of the professionals who educate students, so the very least it can do is make sure that the curriculum is crafted by experts in that particular field, not by anyone with an opinion.
On Monday, the bill failed in the senate. A committee has been appointed. Before the bill comes up again, let the senators know that we want the rates of teen pregnancy, STDs, and sexuality shaming to keep decreasing, so the bill should stay dead.
NC needs to move forward this time.