Panel seeks input on sex education

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Staff writer

Beaufort County public-school officials are preparing for state-mandated changes in the way students are taught sex education.
Monday night, they promised to involve parents and other community members in any decisions that they make regarding sex education.
“We want to include members of the community and to be fully transparent as we go along,” Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps told members of the Beaufort County Board of Education on Monday. “We want to have feedback from all interested parties and stakeholders.”
Phipps’ comments, made at a school-board meeting, followed a presentation on changes mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly earlier this year in a law titled the Healthy Youth Act of 2009.
The act expands age-appropriate sex education offered to students beginning in the seventh grade to include information on sexually transmitted diseases, effectiveness and safety of all FDA-approved contraceptive devices and awareness of sexual assault, sexual abuse and risk reduction.
The law mandates that these changes be implemented by public school systems statewide at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, which begins this summer.
The new law continues to give parents and guardians the right to “opt out” of instruction for their children in all or in specific topics discussed in sex-education classes, and it gives them the right to review all the materials and objectives that will be used in such classes.
The new law mandates that materials used in the classes “be age appropriate for use with students” and that “(i)nformation conveyed during the instruction shall be objective and based upon scientific research that is peer reviewed and accepted by professionals and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education.”
Each school district may choose its own program materials, provided those materials meet the guidelines mandated by the legislature, Patrick Abele, executive director for learning services for Beaufort County Schools, told the board.
School administrators and a committee of community volunteers are expected to receive training in the coming weeks to prepare them to choose and recommend materials that would meet the guidelines, Abele said.
“We certainly recognize that this is a very sensitive topic,” he said. “We want parents to understand that they have the ‘opt-out’ option for any or all of the topics and that they have the opportunity to review curriculum materials.”
Beaufort County Schools now offers a reproductive health and safety education curriculum that teaches that abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children.
For more information, parents may contact the Beaufort County Schools or visit the N.C. Department of Public Instruction Web site at
In other business, the board:
• Unanimously approved the 2010-2011 school calendar. The calendar restores two teacher workdays — Nov. 8 and Feb. 7, 2011 — to allow teachers to schedule parent-teacher conferences. Under the calendar, the first day of school will be Aug. 25 and the last day, June 9, 2011.
• Unanimously approved an agreement with the City of Washington for the use of Kugler Field with the inclusion of a clause requiring the winterization of all plumbing fixtures at the end of the lease year.
• Unanimously endorsed a resolution supporting a request by the Beaufort County Community College Board of Trustees asking the General Assembly to restore funding for Huskins and Dual Enrollment courses for high-school students.
• Gave final approval to a change in school policy governing class size. The change, which clarifies class size for testing purposes, states that for state and local testing, “a small class size shall be defined as a setting with 14 or fewer students.”
• Unanimously approved a request from Chocowinity Middle School to install fences — to be funded by the Chocowinity Middle School Boosters Club — at the school’s baseball and softball fields;
• Unanimously approved a change order for John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School to install impact-resistant drywall on three inside walls of the new physical-education building at an estimated cost of $6,839.
• Unanimously approved field-trip requests.
Board members F. Mac Hodges and Cindy Winstead did not attend the meeting. Board Chairman Robert Belcher announced that Hodges was out of town on business and Winstead had an appointment with a doctor as a result of a recent injury.