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South Carolina: Potential New Sexuality Education Curriculum Sparks Debate

By Rachel Cultice, SIECUS Program Research Intern

During a Charleston County School Board committee meeting in early July 2015, discussion about potentially changing the district’s sexuality education program led to debate among parents. The district was considering implementing the program Making Proud Choices!, which teaches about both abstinence and contraception.[1] The district has recently decided, however, that they are not yet ready for this change and has postponed further discussion on the topic.[2] This is not the first time this district has been unsupportive of Making Proud Choices!.

In 1988, the state of South Carolina passed the Comprehensive Health Education Act, which states that pregnancy prevention and reproductive health education must stress the importance of abstaining from sexual activity until marriage and must strongly emphasize the risks associated with sexual activity outside of marriage. The instruction is also intended to explain the risks and benefits of contraception methods only in the context of future family planning.

The Charleston County school board permitted an abstinence-only-until-marriage program from Heritage Community Services in their schools in 2010. The local Health Advisory Committee, however, had disapproved of that choice in a 9-1 vote. In 2013, the Health Advisory Committee made the recommendation that Making Proud Choices! be approved by the district, but the Board rejected it. Now, in 2015, the program has been brought back to the table in an effort to add information about contraception to the curriculum.[3]

Some parents were concerned that the school district’s sexuality education program would no longer be abstinence-based, and would contain material that was too graphic for their children. One parent suggested that he “should have had the kids close their ears” before he read a passage from the curriculum at the board meeting.[4]

Supporters of the program were also present at the board meeting, explaining that statistics support the program’s effectiveness. South Carolina has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STI transmission in the U.S.[5] Evaluations of Making Proud Choices! found that young people who participated in the program where more likely to delay initiation of sexual intercourse and those participants who were already sexually active were more likely to reduce the frequency of sex, reduce the incidence of unprotected sex, and increase condom use.”[6]

Although some felt that Making Proud Choices! was not comprehensive enough, the district’s physical education and health coordinator Dave Spurlock suggested that the program offers a “more up-to-date discussion.”[7]

Board member Chris Collins explained his position: "We don't want anything that has the tone or the implication that sex is fun for young people […] We don't want to pat them on the back and say you have our approval. So we're looking for something that's more preventative and more abstinence based."[8]

After a long discussion, the committee moved the topic of the new sexuality education curriculum to be addressed at a full Board meeting on August 4, 2015,[9] which was intended to give them the opportunity to take a closer look to the materials.[10] Board member Kate Darby explained, “I want to make sure we’re presenting the best options for our students and our parents and our teachers, and I feel like we were rushing this a little bit.”[11] The Health Advisory Committee was working to adapt Making Proud Choices!, in conjunction with representatives of Medical University of South Carolina with extensive experience with the program, hoping parents would find the revised version more age-appropriate for their children.[12]

The Strategic Education Committee, however, decided to remove consideration of Making Proud Choices! from the August 4, 2015 board meeting agenda following a meeting on July 30, 2015 with new Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, Physical Education and Health Coordinator Spurlock, and Board member Darby,.[13]

SIECUS will continue to monitor this controversy in Charleston County, South Carolina and report any updates.


[1] Deanna Pan, "Charleston County schools renew sex education debate," The Post and Courier, July 7, 2015, www.postandcourier.com/article/20150707/PC16/150709499/charleston-county-schools-renew-sex-education-debate.

[2] Deanna Pan, “Controversial sex education curriculum tabled again,” The Post and Courier, August 1, 2015, www.postandcourier.com/article/20150801/PC16/150809916/controversial-sex-education-curriculum-tabled-again.

[3] Deanna Pan, "Charleston County schools…”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Science and Success, Second Edition: Sex Education and Other Programs that Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV & Sexually Transmitted Infections, Advocates for Youth, www.advocatesforyouth.org/storage/advfy/documents/sciencesuccesses.pdf.

[7] Deanna Pan, "Charleston County schools…”

[8] Alexis Simmons, "Charleston County Board considers new sex education program," Live 5 News, July 8, 2915, www.live5news.com/story/29505690/charleston-county-board-considers-new-sex-education-program.

[9] Deanna Pan, “Controversial sex education…”

[10] Deanna Pan, "Charleston County schools…”

[11] Deanna Pan, “Controversial sex education…”

[12] Alexis Simmons, "Charleston County Board …”

[13] Deanna Pan, “Controversial sex education…”

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