Ten years ago, our state passed two critical pieces of legislation thanks to the efforts of thousands of young people, some amazing advocates, and a bipartisan group of legislators.The Healthy Youth Act put an end to North Carolina’s restrictive and unscientific abstinence-only-until-marriage education rules and required schools to provide medically accurate sex education that includes contraception, STIs, healthy relationships, and more. The School Violence Prevention Act expanded bullying protections for students, including bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Why celebrate? It is absolutely essential that young people get medically accurate information in schools - something only required in 13 states - and that they can have an opportunity to be themselves in a safe learning environment.
Having strong basic laws in place is only a start, though. Not every student is getting the sex ed they're entitled to. Not every student is safe and affirmed at school. We all have a lot more work to do.
Since the passage of these two bills, we've trained teachers in school systems serving more than 300,000 on how to provide sex education - everything from how to find the urethra on a chart to how to answer really sensitive questions in a room of 8th graders to how students' past trauma might affect learning. Teachers need access to more of this type of professional development! We've also trained school personnel serving hundreds of thousands of students on how to create safe and supportive school environments so that they can protect students from bullying, help LGBTQ+ students thrive, and create a safer environment for everyone.
We've also seen challenges. We continue to push back on legislative attempts to weaken sex ed in schools by cutting back on content or making it harder for students and parents to access classes.
We will continue to fight for sex ed and safer schools for LGBTQ youth so we can look forward to another 10 years of progress for young people.