Lawmakers Revisiting South Carolina’s Sex Ed Laws
Beth Lewis, a health teacher at Moultrie Middle School, shook with emotion as she described a state of emergency in South Carolina sex education. “We’ve got throat cancer now, and we’ve got it in middle school, because these kids are engaging in oral sex,” Lewis said. “If [a curriculum] teaches them to use a dental dam, then I’m going to teach it so they don’t get throat cancer because they contracted the HPV virus.”
A recent forum at the College of Charleston was one of several hosted around the state by the New Morning Foundation and Tell Them SC, groups working to overhaul South Carolina laws regarding sex ed. As parents, medical experts, and school officials stepped up to the microphone, one topic kept coming back up: Abstinence. Under current state law, each school district is required to adopt its own sex education curriculum, and some have adopted abstinence-only programs, which stress refraining from sexual intercourse until marriage and do not teach students how to have protected sex.
Whatever the specific flaws in the state’s sex ed programs, the big picture is that they aren’t working. South Carolina has higher-than-average rates of most sexually transmitted infections, and an average of 21 South Carolina teenagers became pregnant every day in 2011, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control statistics (see graphs above).