Commentary: Parent should have more choices about sex ed

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

About 20,000 teenage girls will get pregnant in North Carolina this year. That will make North Carolina's teen pregnancy rate about ninth worst in the nation. About 17,000 N.C. teens will contract syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia.

One important way to bring those numbers down is education. North Carolina's teens need to have a comprehensive understanding about the dangers of unprotected sex. That's why N.C. legislators should pass the "Healthy Youth Act," which gives parents the authority to choose what kind of sex education their children should receive.

Under this bill, school systems would offer two sex education curricula – one limited to teaching abstinence until marriage, the other a comprehensive course that teaches about abstinence, contraception, STDs, relationships and other topics. Parents would choose which course their children take.

This is better public policy than the current system, which requires all school systems to teach abstinence. School systems can have other sex ed programs only after the school board holds a public hearing. Elected officials have little desire to make themselves the target of public barbs on such a hot-button issue, and so most schools teach abstinence only. This despite an overwhelming majority of parents backing a broader sex ed track both in polls and in practice.

Teen pregnancy in North Carolina and the nation dropped consistently starting around 1990, but ticked back up in the past few years. And teens in North Carolina contract sexually transmitted diseases at a substantially higher rate than the nation as a whole.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.