Bill Aims to Change Some Sex Education Laws in SC

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A piece of legislation that has been stalled in a house subcommittee for more than a year passed a key hurdle and is now headed for the full house.

It would change the way sex education is taught in our schools, but it's not out of the woods yet. Not everyone is sold on a need for the bill.

The Comprehensive Health Education Act passed a Statehouse vote in 1988. It allowed local school boards to control the way health and sex education should be taught. It's now 26 years later, and advocates say it's time to revisit the law and make some changes.

"Just like we would have a math teacher be certified, we should have a health educator certified to teach their subject matter," Emma Davidson, Associate Director for Strategic Mobilization at the New Morning Foundation.

A person teaching sex education classes in South Carolina needs no special certifications to do so as the law stands now. Mandating those certifications for sex education teachers is just one aspect of the current law that would change under the bill.

"It will increase accountability for school districts," Davidson said. She said it would also "let parents, community members and legislative officials find out what is being taught in the classroom, who is responsible for teaching."

The state's public schools are home to about 80 school districts, housing more than 700,000 students. The bill would require information being taught to be "medically accurate," and "published in peer-reviewed journals."

To make sure the information is accurate, districts would have to report to the South Carolina Department of Education.

State Rep. B.R. Skelton,R-Pickens, sponsored the bill and said teens who have had accurate sex education are less likely to get pregnant.

"I felt that there might be something we could do about it," he said. "When we learned about the kinds of information that was being provided, than it was even more important for us, I think, to take the bill up and bring us into the 21st century."

Two years were spent working up to the bill, but Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, said if there are any schools teaching inaccurate information, he hasn't seen it. He said that's why he voted not to allow the bill to pass a house subcommittee.

"There might be a district out there, but I feel like if there is, they should be able to prove that within two years," Putnam said.

The bill would still allow abstinence to be taught in schools, and allow for parents to opt out of the lessons for their children as well.

There is no timetable set on when the bill will be discussed in front of the full house.

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said if the bill passes, a new position would have to be created to oversee the curriculum in the school districts.


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