Back to School = Back to Sex Ed?

Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens).

A new school year means new teachers, new classes, and – for some North Carolina students – new sex ed. If you’re a parent, you should know what to expect.

North Carolina Schools: Leading the Way

Since the 2010-11 academic year, North Carolina schools have been required to provide students in grades 7-9 with comprehensive sex education, or what the schools call Reproductive Health and Safety Education. Overall, in these grades, students should learn medically accurate, age appropriate information about:

  • Abstinence
  • All FDA-approved methods of contraception
  • Ways to avoid HIV and STDs, including HPV
  • Relationships, including how to avoid/prevent abuse, violence, and sexual assault

These baseline recommendations fit nicely with what we, along with experts from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend for students in this age group. You can check out the full set of Essential Standards that students are supposed to learn in Reproductive Health and Safety Education.


North Carolina’s sex ed law (which passed as the Healthy Youth Act) is the good news… Unfortunately, not every school follows the law. In some cases, schools haven’t had the resources to train teachers and buy new teaching materials. In other cases, administrators are afraid of controversy – even though about 90% of parents want their kids to get the information included under the new law.

At APPCNC, we work with school systems to help them update their policies, practices, and procedures so that they can meet the new standards, and ultimately provide students with a great education. In a workshop called “Awkward to Awesome”, we train teachers to feel comfortable answering the craziest question a 7th grader can muster. We help schools examine different lesson plans and curricula to see what fits both the law and their local community. We also help get everyone in a school system on the same page – so teachers feel supported by their principal; so principals feel supported by their central office, and so no one feels heartburn about getting students important health information.

Your Role as a Parent

North Carolina’s sex ed law specifically encourages parent participation – but it varies from district to district. If your child’s school offers a parent night, we encourage you to go. Your child may also have homework that encourages you to share your thoughts and values about sex and relationships. Do it. It’s important.

If you’re uncomfortable with the sex ed that your child is being provided, you can opt them out. However, we encourage you to talk with the teacher first to try to understand what’s being taught. Always know that:

  1. Comprehensive sex ed will help your child stay healthier.
  2. Students who receive comprehensive sex ed stay abstinent longer and are far more likely to be safe and responsible later in life than students who get no sex ed or abstinence-only sex ed.
  3. Comprehensive sex ed does not encourage early sexual activity and won’t make your child more likely to have sex.

Finally, show your child’s teacher and principal that you support comprehensive sex ed. Fear of controversy is a big barrier to great education. Your vocal support can help make things better for everyone.