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Crossposted on Amplify

September brings about the start of the 2010/2011 school year, and in North Carolina sexual health advocates are celebrating.  The Healthy Youth Act (HB 88) goes into effect this year, effectively ending North Carolina’s decade long policy of abstinence-only sex education.

This bill replaces abstinence-only sex education with a more comprehensive reproductive health and safety program that promotes abstinence as the best method for avoiding pregnancy and STI’s, but also teaches about contraception, safe sex, and healthy relationships.  

State Senator Ellie Kinnaird, one of the bills supporters, commented saying:

I am pleased that the NC Legislature was able to pass the Healthy Youth Act last session.  However, it was not without great difficulty.  Several religious groups and some Republican Senators objected to broadening the information available to students.  But on the other side, we had many allies who worked the halls just as hard to make sure that students have accurate, complete information about sexual health.  I believe that this information now available to students will show up in statistics down the road with fewer pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.  Having accurate, complete information will help others to make better decisions to protect themselves and avoid a direction that could have penalties for years to come.

Each NC school district is responsible for adopting a policy that includes information about both abstinence and contraception, but in some areas the process of implementing the new learning standards has been rocky.  While an overwhelming 91.8% of North Carolina parents want the more detailed education, school systems seem to operate in fear of a very vocal minority that opposes effective sexuality education. Talking about contraceptives – just the very basics of what they are, how they work and how effective they are – is proving to be the most controversial aspect of the law.  This is frustrating beyond belief for advocates like myself who understand that educating teens about how to protect themselves is a critical step in addressing our teen pregnancy crisis.  

The same people who worked incredibly hard to stop the bill from passing are working to make sure the bill is not implemented. In some cases, they urge school administrators to do the bare minimum – like talking about all FDA approved contraceptives (as required) but only talking about their failure rates. The opposition even met with program staff in the state Department of Public Instruction to try to water down the Healthy Youth Act through bureaucratic means. In other cases, school administrators assume opposition is out there and are only tiptoeing toward compliance.  

When legislators passed the Healthy Youth Act – and when we advocated for it – the goal was to make certain that every teenager had the basic knowledge and skills necessary to avoid pregnancy and STDs. The law itself finally provides North Carolina educators the chance to use effective sexuality education to address the state’s disturbingly high teen pregnancy rate. But simply passing a law wasn’t good enough. That’s why I’m working along with fellow youth activists in NC to find out who’s doing what, which school systems are refusing to follow the law, and how we can support school systems who honestly want to provide an effective education for students. The devil is in the details here, but with teens more than 19,000 teens becoming pregnant every year in NC, we young people deserve EVERY school in North Carolina teaching accurate and complete information about sexuality and sexual health.  

For more information on our efforts to implement this new curriculum, you can follow the Teen Health Now youth activism council, a group of young people dedicated to promoting sexual health in North Carolina.  We have a Facebook page and are on Twitter, please reach out to us if you have any questions, ideas, or stories.

Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

Originally posted to TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Sep 03, 2010 at 01:40 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

    by TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Sep 03, 2010 at 01:40:55 PM PDT

  •  Cheers, Dan... (5+ / 0-)

    ...I know what a hard row to plow this has been. I worked on getting the same sorta school-based, teen-centered programs up and running oh so long ago in a state with similar health profiles as NC (that being LA)...

    Cheers to you and the other folks working on these efforts...

  •  Facts have a liberal bias (5+ / 0-)

    What state pays the most per capita for abstinence-only?  Texas.

    What state has the highest rate of teen pregnancies?  Wow, it's Texas.

    And the highest rate of repeat teen prgenancy?  Why it's Texas again!

    Let's hope the voters in your state learn something from that and keep on the good path.

    Where did the rest of the elves go?

    by thepothole on Fri Sep 03, 2010 at 02:22:01 PM PDT

    •  compare to Berkeley CA. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Berkeley is the classic liberal town.  It has the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in California.  No doubt due to comprehensive sexual health ed, including contraception.  

      IMHO parents shouldn't have a right to opt their kids out of that.  Nor should they have a right to opt their kids out of vaccinations unless they have certain very specific medical conditions that are known to contraindicate vaccination.  

      As a generalization, parents have no moral right to cripple, hobble, and impair their offspring's ability to function as a citizen in a free society.  Particularly where the consequences may be death or permanent disability.  

      •  I agree, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but that starts down the road that conservatives call gov't control over parenting, which raises so many emotional reactions that it gets ugly fast.

        But I still agree.  It's that "fact" thing again...

        Where did the rest of the elves go?

        by thepothole on Sat Sep 04, 2010 at 05:46:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  stewardship vs. ownership. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Parenthood is stewardship of future adults, not ownership of children.

          The people who scream the loudest about "government control of parenting" are usually the ones who want to keep their children crippled by ignorance.  

          It would be tempting to give them a state and let them have their way there.  But aside from the obvious human rights and logistical issues, there would shortly come a need for much government aid to bail them out of their self-made catastrophe.  

          As for the issue of emotional reactions, let's call that what it is: grownup temper tantrums that deserve no standing much less our collective indulgence.  

  •  good work, Dan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, luckydog

    I didn't know about HB 88.  I was flabbergasted when I read that sexual health information was going to be included in my daughter's health class (whatever they call it).  Didn't know it was possible in NC.  Thank you!

    I will check out your Amplify link.

  •  I know it's not the kids' fault (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chun Yang, G2geek

    that the parents are bloomin' idiots. Still, my lizard brain is thinking ... yeah, let the other 8.2% exempt their kids from the program.  If and only if they and the kids sign a legal contract that they will never be allowed to access any form of evil government services when they end up with an unplanned (grand)baby. But I'm a progressive so I can't just let my lizard brain run wild.

    _Karl Rove is an outside agitator._

    by susanala on Fri Sep 03, 2010 at 03:48:56 PM PDT

    •  there is an opt-out option (0+ / 0-)

      If a parent does not want their child in the new sex ed. program, they can sign one simple piece of paper that exempts their child from the course.  

      I feel bad for the kids whose parents are so backwards what they don't want want their teens learning a few simple facts about contraception along with info about abstinence and healthy relationships.  

      Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

      by TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Sep 03, 2010 at 04:30:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  what to do about those religious nuts. (0+ / 0-)

    Get in their faces.

    Shout them down, shut them up, shame them into crawling back under their rocks.  Holler at them and yell at them.  Like this:  What the hell is wrong with you?!, are you in favor of teenage pregnancy and diseases?!  and You are an extremist and a nut who is obsessed with children and sex!  Get your mind out of the gutter and get the hell out of the way!

    If they are so obsessed with children and sex, then a) they need to have their heads examined, and b) they can put their kids in Madrassas.  Though IMHO parents have no moral right to raise their kids with a degree of ignorance that impairs their ability to function as citizens in a free society.  

    Zero tolerance for obscurantist nuttery, and zero tolerance for child abuse.

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