North Carolina State Profile Fiscal Year 2007
The Department of Public Instruction and community-based organizations in North Carolina received $2,223,963 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
North Carolina Sexuality Education Law and Policy
North Carolina schools are required to teach a comprehensive health education program, which includes prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and “abstinence until marriage education.” Schools must stress the importance of parental involvement and abstinence from sex until marriage in disease prevention. Students must also be taught refusal skills and strategies to handle peer pressure. Curricula must teach that a “mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding diseases transmitted by sexual contact,” including HIV/AIDS. With respect to contraception and family planning, the law states:
Students may receive information about where to obtain contraceptives and abortion referral services only in accordance with a local board’s policy regarding parental consent. Any instruction concerning the use of contraceptives or prophylactics shall provide accurate statistical information on their effectiveness and failure rates for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, in actual use among adolescent populations and shall explain clearly the difference between risk reduction and risk elimination through abstinence. The Department of Health and Human Services shall provide the most current available information at the beginning of each school year.
Furthermore, in North Carolina contraceptives cannot be made available or distributed on school property.
The North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction provides several different resources for schools, including Components of a Strong School HIV Policy, Healthful Living Education, and Communicable Diseases—Students, as well as online information about abstinence-only-until-marriage. These documents offer model policies, suggested curricula, and content outlines. However, school districts make the ultimate decision about what the education looks like in the classroom. School districts may provide a more comprehensive program only if a public hearing is held. Each school district must also establish a school health advisory council.
According to North Carolina law, “local boards of education shall adopt policies to provide opportunities either for parents and legal guardians to consent or for parents and legal guardians to withhold their consent to the students’ participation in any or all of these programs.” These are referred to as “opt-in” and “opt-out” policies, respectively.
See North Carolina General Statute 115C-81, Components of a Strong School HIV Policy, Healthy Living Education, Communicable Diseases- Students, and www.nchealthyschools.org/abstinence.
Legislation to Amend Nondiscrimination Laws
House Bill 1789, introduced in April 2007, would have amended the State Personal Act so that the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions extended to cover sexual orientation. The bill was sent to the House Committee on State Personnel on April 19, 2007 but failed to move forward and died.
Legislation to Modify School Health Education Program
House Bill 879 and Senate Bill 1182, introduced in March 2007, would have modified the existing law to require schools to teach “abstinence-until-marriage education” to include information about both abstinence and contraception. Under this new legislation, schools would have provided education on mental and emotional health, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, nutrition, dental health, environmental health, family living, consumer health, disease control, growth and development, first aid and emergency care, preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence-based comprehensive sexual health, bicycle safety, awareness of sexual abuse/assault, and risk reduction. All instructional materials would have been required to be age- and culture-appropriate, factually and medically accurate, and taught in grades seven through twelve. In March 2007, HB 879 was referred to the House Committees on Health and Education, while SB 1182 was referred to the Senate Committees on Education and Public Instruction. Both bills failed to leave committee and died.
Student-Created Education Program Dismissed by Superintendent
A group of students at Franklin High School in Macon County, North Carolina assessed the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System; a survey of a wide variety of behaviors conducted biennially by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and decided that sexual activity was the most troubling issue among their peers.The students pointed to the sizeable number of girls in their high school who were pregnant, and determined that while illicit drug use (including alcohol) is routinely addressed in schools, sexual activity remains taboo and shrouded in myths and misinformation.
The students, with help from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Macon County Health Department, SIECUS, and others, developed a new peer-education program entitled “Sexy Abs—Sense Enough to Expand Your Awareness About Sex.” “Sexy Abs” was designed to be a “peer talk program,” which would be presented to area middle-school students by trained high school students.2
The students presented an outline of the program to the school board in April 2007 and board members were supportive. Though he had initially also been supportive, the superintendent rejected the program without any board input saying, “There would be no kids teaching kids about sex.”3
Still the students were successful in making the school board aware of the need for more sexuality education. One school board member “expressed disappointment” when she learned that the issue would not go forward. “I think they would have done a fine job,” she said. “We need to have people stand up and say this is something that is needed.” Another board member also felt let down, “We got an email with the rough draft…with a few changes, I would have no problem with it.” Many other members of the board also felt that the topic was prematurely pulled from discussion.4
Gay-Straight Alliance Allowed, But More Restrictions on All School Clubs
In September 2006, an openly gay student approached school administrators requesting to form a new Gay-Straight Alliance on campus. The student said she hoped the club would foster a more tolerant environment and end the discrimination she faces in school.
Though many community members wanted the school to ban the club outright, district officials realized that the legal precedents were against them. One school board member researched past litigation surrounding GSA controversies and reported that there was no legal way to skirt the issue.5Judges across the country have ruled that Equal Access Act of 1984, which states that school districts cannot restrict extracurricular clubs on the basis of “religious, political, philosophical or other content,” protects GSAs. If a school district allows any clubs to form, it must all allow GSAs to form.6
The school board did, however, vote in new rules for all non-academic clubs. The new guidelines state that non-academic clubs are not allowed to use the public address system, can only post announcements in designated areas, and will not be pictured in the yearbook. Furthermore, students now need written permission from their parent to join any student-initiated non-curricular club.7 Though these rules seemed designed to make it more difficult for the GSA to function, they appear to be legally permissible as long as they are applied equally to all non-academic clubs.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction received $1,248,963 in federal Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding in Fiscal Year 2007. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction receives the funds and uses teachers’ salaries as in-kind contributions to meet the required match. The Department of Public Instruction keeps 10 percent of the funds for administration; the remaining funds are given to 115 school districts and 14 charter schools throughout the state. In order to be eligible, schools must have at least one class of seventh through twelfth grade students. According to the North Carolina Healthy Schools website, “school systems that accept these funds must comply with the federal A-H Criteria for abstinence education.”9
Funding is distributed based on the number of grades and students each school has; schools receive $333 per grade and $1.31 per student in grades seven through twelve. Schools are free to use the money at their discretion as long as they do not violate the federal government’s eight-point definition of “abstinence education.” Staff at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction visit school sites on an as-needed basis for general monitoring.
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There is one CBAE grantee in North Carolina: Halifax County School. There are two AFLA grantees in North Carolina: Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County and Roanoke Chapel Baptist Church.
The Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County uses its AFLA grant to conduct the “Taking Responsible Actions in Life (TRAIL)” program with students in seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. TRAIL participants “engage in abstinence education and enrichment activities over a three-year period.”10 This project focuses on “impacting school-wide social norms towards positive decision-making” and uses a saturation model by conducting a social norms marketing campaign at the school aimed at students, parents, and teachers. Parents with students in the program participate in parent-child homework activities, newsletters, and family events at the school.11
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007
North Carolina Organizations that Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education
North Carolina Organizations that Oppose Comprehensive Sexuality Education