Yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory signed SB132, the abortion education bill. The bill amends the state’s comprehensive sex education law to include information saying that abortion increases the risk for preterm birth. Specifically, the law requires students to learn:
"...about the preventable risks for preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies, including induced abortion, smoking, alcohol consumption, the use of illicit drugs, and inadequate prenatal care."
Although APPCNC doesn’t work on the issue of abortion, we worked hard to try to defeat this bill. It puts our state’s teachers and school administrators in the middle of one of our most contentious political debates, and it diverts attention away from important messages about safety, health, and the prevention of pregnancy.
So, what happens next?
According to the new law – which applies to public, private, home, and charter schools – the NC Department of Public Instruction and the state Division of Public Health have 60 days to create materials that schools can use to fulfill the new requirement.
These materials will still be required to meet the same standard as any other sex education materials used in North Carolina schools:
“Materials used in this instruction shall be age appropriate for use with students. Information conveyed during the instruction shall be objective and based upon scientific research that is peer reviewed and accepted by professionals and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education”
The requirement that materials be objective, peer-reviewed, and accepted by sex education experts should provide some comfort. However, communities and parents should still be vigilant.
What You Can Do
Review the materials. North Carolina law requires schools to allow parents to review any sex education materials. Typically, a parent can go review a copy in the school’s media center.
Talk to your own children. School-based sex education is an important supplement to parent-child communications, not a replacement for it. Take the opportunity to share your family’s view on the topic, and let your child know that he or she can come to you with questions.
Ask who will present information on abortion. Guest speakers and community partnerships can strengthen sex education – for example, a rape crisis center can provide powerful information on healthy relationships and interpersonal violence. However, make sure your child is not being exposed to outside speakers with a specific agenda that could undermine safe, medically accurate sex education. (Here is an example of what we mean.)
Be kind to your teachers and school administrators. We know that a) the fear of controversy is one of the biggest barriers to sex education; and b) the bill places schools in the middle of one of our nation’s most contentious political battles. Recognize that school staff are being placed in an uncomfortable position. If you need to raise concerns, please be kind and make it clear that your goal is to make sex education safe, helpful, and medically accurate.
Opt Out. North Carolina law also gives parents the ability to opt out of any portion of reproductive health and safety education. If the materials are something you don’t want your child learning, you can opt them out. (Check with your school system on its process for opting out.)
Stay tuned. We will keep you posted as this new law is implemented so you can know what’s happening on the ground in North Carolina schools.