‘The Talk:’ The Fight Over Sex Ed In North Carolina

Jul 11, 2019
Originally published on July 11, 2019 1:55 pm

What do North Carolina students learn in school about the birds and the bees and what should they learn? At local school board meetings and at the state Capitol, parents, government officials and advocacy groups all vie for control over curriculum and funding.

The Healthy Youth Act, enacted in the state in 2009, promised students more sexual education than “no sex until marriage.” So why did abstinence-only curriculums remain the status quo at many schools? Julia Considine, an Asheville-based health consultant, investigated sex education programs across the state and found confused middle school principals as well as gym teachers afraid to ask for help. Host Anita Rao talks with a range of experts, teachers and advocates about the place of sexual education in the classroom. The conversation is the first in The State of Things’ new series “Embodied: Sex, Relationships and Your Health.”

Jamika Lynch, a health educator in Columbus County, understands that most parents weren’t offered adequate instruction when they were in school. Mitchell shares stories about the struggles and successes of teaching about sexuality in rural Southern Baptist churches and schools. The conversation also includes Elizabeth Finley, director of strategic communications at SHIFT NC, who dissects recent house bills.

Plus, theater is used in sex ed classes across North Carolina and the topic makes good foder for the stage. Playwright Linsey Watkins explores the humor and dangers of a stunted sex education in her new play, “Oh Righteous God And Sinful Me.” Set in an all-girls Catholic boarding school, a group of young women explore their own bodies and desires with alternating bouts of fervor and guilt. The play is onstage Saturday, July 13 at 10 p.m. as part of the Women’s Theatre Festival in Raleigh featuring actors Autumn Hemmelgarn and Hailey White.

Alexandra Lightfoot, an assistant professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, teaches college courses that train students to lead interactive performances about boundaries and biology. Lightfoot and Watkins speak with Rao about moving outside the limits of a traditional classroom to teach young people about their bodies. Although, Lightfoot ponders, maybe parents need the lesson most.

 

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