Robeson County, North Carolina
County health officials in Robeson County, North Carolina are pushing the school board to adopt a more comprehensive sexuality education policy that would have schools teaching about contraceptives as well as abstinence. They may face an uphill battle, however.
Of 100 counties in North Carolina, Robeson County (population:130,000) ranks 11th in teen pregnancy rates. 1 In 2006, 446 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 gave birth in the county.2 The Health Department in Robeson has received an $11,000 grant from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of North Carolina to increase awareness of how comprehensive sex education can help to lower the county’s teen pregnancy rates. Robeson health officials formed the group Creating Health Advocates Through Schools (CHATS) to get this information to the public. CHATS recently conducted community and student surveys about comprehensive sex education in schools which will be presented to the school board.
The effort to bring comprehensive sexual education into the schools is facing some opposition, however. State law requires that sexual education classes take an abstinence-only-until-marriage approach though it is left up to the individual school districts, however, to implement their own curricula.3 This complicated system of shared control and requirements is confusing to some districts. It is possible for local school districts to teach comprehensive sexuality education, but only if a public hearing on the issue is held.4
A bill submitted earlier this year in the state legislature would have amended the school health education program to include comprehensive sex education. State Rep. Garland Pierce, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said the bill was controversial because some felt it might encourage homosexuality or teen sex. The bill died in Committee.
“Girls are getting pregnant at an early age, and then there is the risk of getting a disease,” said Pierce. “At some point you have to take your head out of the sand and see the reality. There are nearly 500 teenagers who have had babies in Robeson County. Either you learn it from the bathroom or from your friends, or learn it from the professionals who will teach you the real deal.”5
School health officials and CHATS are continuing their grassroots efforts to bring comprehensive sexuality education to Robeson, but the school board has not responded. SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.
- U.S. Census Bureau, State and County Quick Facts, Robeson County, NC, accessed 9 January 2008, <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/37/37155.html>
- Venita Jenkins, “Robeson sex education classes at issue,” Fayetteville Observer (NC), 2 December 2007, accessed 9 January 2007, <www.fayobserver.com/article?id=279373>.