After months of negotiation and attempts at cooperation, North Carolina’s state assembly is finally taking a step in the right direction in regard to their policies on sexuality education. Today, lawmakers passed a bill requiring all seventh- through ninth-graders to learn about sexually transmitted infections, how to properly use contraceptives and prevent pregnancy, and “other topics such as sexual assault,” according to the Hickory Daily Record. It’s a long way from the abstinence only policy that was the previous norm, but ultimately a compromise.
According to Raleigh’s ABC 11, “all districts must teach abstinence until marriage, but they’ll also be able to give information on contraception to prevent pregnancy and disease.”
The bill also allows squeamish parents to withdrawal their children from the classes if they don’t want their children to be taught the scientifically accurate informatio; yet another sign that this is merely a step in a much larger struggle. According to a report issued on June 1st from the Guttmacher Institute, North Carolina mandated an abstinence only policy in regards to sexuality and HIV/AIDS education—and didn’t let parents opt their children out.
“The majority of districts teach some version of an "abstinence-only" curriculum,” wrote the Record. “They vary in how much information, if any, they give students about contraceptives. A few school districts…teach a more comprehensive curriculum. Abstinence is still emphasized as the expected standard, but as a matter of policy, students also are given considerable information about STDs and contraceptives.”
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However, this bill could get the ball rolling on comprehensive sexuality education in other states, as well. Utah state assembly’s Democratic Representative Lynn Hemingway is reportedly using this bill as a model for a bill in his state, which has until now had similar abstinence-only legislation.