Schools play a pivotal role in helping young people be healthy, safe, and responsible – and stay that way for the rest of their lives.
When it comes to school-based teen pregnancy prevention, minds tend to head in one direction: sex ed. While sexuality education is an important part of pregnancy prevention – and of education in general – it’s not the only role schools can play in promoting health, safety, and responsibility.
Sexuality education is an important component of health education – and it’s supported by parents, researchers, and public policy!
Decades of research have proven:
- Students who receive sexuality education wait longer to have sex than students who receive no sexuality education
- Sexuality education does not encourage sexual activity
- Students who receive comprehensive or evidence-based sexuality education are less likely to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy – one of the leading causes of dropout
North Carolina Parents Support Sex Education
A 2009 Parent Opinion Survey conducted by APPCNC and the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill found that North Carolina parents overwhelmingly support school-based sexuality education.
Of parents of North Carolina public school students:
- 91.8% want schools to provide sexuality education
- 89% want school-based sexuality education to include information on abstinence, contraceptives, and other topics
- Two-thirds of parents thought sexuality education should start by 6th grade
- Even the most hot-button issues have broad parent support: 69% of parents who want sexuality education support a condom demonstration in the classroom
Think your community is very different? Sexuality education enjoys majority support even in North Carolina’s most conservative communities, as this survey from Gaston County illustrates.
North Carolina Law Requires Sex Education
In 2009, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Healthy Youth Act to require school-based Reproductive Health and Safety Education. According to the Healthy Youth Act, local school systems are required to include the following in instruction in grades 7 through 9:
- Transmission and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV
- All FDA-approved contraceptive methods
- Sexual assault/abuse awareness and risk reduction
Perhaps most importantly, the Healthy Youth Act requires all information to be medically accurate and based on peer-reviewed scientific research.
Research Supports Sex Education
Decades of research continue to show that comprehensive sexuality education helps young people:
- Wait longer to have sex
- Practice safer sex when they become sexually active
These two outcomes result in fewer teen pregnancies, as well as greater academic achievement and lower dropout rates. Advocates for Youth's Comprehensive Sex Education: Research and Results has a thorough overview of the research on sexuality education.
The basic knowledge provided in sexuality education is just one step to promoting safety, health, and responsibility. Supporting young people is also a critical component.
Supporting Young Parents
Both state and federal law protect education access for pregnant and parenting students. Protecting and promoting educational attainment for teen moms and dads is important because:
- Pregnancy and parenting reduce educational attainment for both teen moms and teen dads
- Pregnancy and parenting are the leading reason girls drop out
- Only half of all teen moms finish high school and only 2% receive a college degree by age 30
- Ample evidence shows young parents can meet their educational goals with support
Our resource page For Young Parents and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Teen Parents provide more resources on how to meet the needs and rights of young parents.
Creating Safe Environments
Sexuality, sexualization, and sexual activity are a part of students’ lives – whether their experiences come first-hand or by way of the media and culture that surrounds them. Unfortunately, these aspects of adolescent life can distract from academics and the school environment.
To promote a safe environment, you can:
- Support effective sexuality education so students can use facts and strong decision making skills to understand and resist outside influences
- Encourage strong parent involvement and parent-student interaction
- Fully implement North Carolina’s 2009 anti-bullying law which protects students from harassment based on many factors, including gender, religion, and sexual orientation
We work directly with schools to help them support student safety, health, and responsibility. Check these other areas of our website to learn more: