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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Brunswick schools to switch sex ed programs after board member concern, teacher feedback

The Brunswick County Board of Education is primed to use a new sex education curriculum after the new program got unanimous approval at Tuesday’s committee meetings. (Port City Daily/file photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The Brunswick County Board of Education is primed to use a new sex education curriculum after the new program got unanimous approval at Tuesday’s committee meetings. 

READ MORE: Brunswick joins the book review fray, school board also reviewing sex ed

The board will take an official vote, albeit as a consent item, on the adoption of the NC Shape “Successfully Teaching Middle School Health” program at its May meeting. 

The curriculum was reviewed among four others and recommended by a committee of teachers from each Brunswick County school, along with a school nurse and representative from the health department. 

“The curriculum was much more in keeping with legislators’ intentions for what’s to be taught,” board member Steve Gainey said on Tuesday.

Gainey was the one to broach the subject in November 2023 when he said he was concerned the current program, “Making Proud Choices! An Evidence-Based, Safer-Sex Approach to Teen Pregnancy and HIV/STD Prevention,” was missing the state standard’s mark. 

In Gainey’s view, itdoes not put enough emphasis on abstinence to satisfy state statute, claiming the course treats the topic as an “aside.”

“Well, you know, the best way to prevent diseases is abstinence, however, and then it goes into this small piece about the practical ways,” Gainey said. “There’s nothing specific, no modules dedicated to promoting the idea of abstinence.” 

On its website, “Making Proud Choices” boasts eight modules providing students “knowledge, confidence and skills necessary to reduce their risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), HIV and pregnancy by abstaining from sex or using condoms if they choose to have sex.”

According to state law, districts must “teach that abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children,” along with “a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means” of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.” 

As with every subject though, adopted curriculum may not provide a complete overlap over the standards of each different state — thus, teachers may use supplemental materials to capture each learning objective. Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Paschal said the program will cover the objectives without supplement.

The committee also went beyond the the charge it was given; the curriculum change will apply to 9th grade, as well as 7th and 8th.

“When we got into this NC Shape and looked at the Shape curriculum and it looked like that was the direction we were going to go, it seemed pretty obvious that next step, and adopting that curriculum with it, we would also bring in the ninth grade,” Paschal said. 

The district is planning to post the materials on its website, and parents can also access an opt-out form to keep their kids from taking the course. 

Right now, the district requires parents to opt their child in to the sex education modules.  Posting the materials online makes them readily available and keeps parents abreast of what’s going on. 

“We want to go into an opt-out only format because of the transparency, as you can see from that website, and having our parents be able to see it in the comfort of their home and don’t have to go to the school anymore to check out the pretty sensitive curriculum,” Paschal said.

The curriculum will be voted on at the May 7 school board meeting. 

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