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Sex education remains politically controversial

Posted: March 3, 2014 - 6:54pm

COLUMBIA — Mountain Dew doesn’t prevent pregnancy.

That fact hasn’t changed, despite what one South Carolina teacher has allegedly been telling students.

Lawmakers on Feb. 25 labored for the second year over a bill to make sure acceptable standards of reproductive health are taught to public school students.

Earlier testimony revealed that some teachers have been making bizarre statements in class. Among them: that Mountain Dew doubles as a contraceptive, and that the only thing better than sex is macaroni and cheese.

Still, a bill to standardize the teaching of reproductive health continues to be a tough sell.

Some lawmakers feared that teaching students about the consequences of sex would either numb them to the risks or encourage their interest.

Proponents said the bill, H. 3435, doesn’t mean South Carolina will begin teaching sex education. It’s been in place for years, but neither updated nor uniformly followed. The Comprehensive Health Education Act has not been revised for 25 years.

“What this bill does, it says, ‘We don’t care about your values.’ We’re going to impose that across the entire state,” said Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, a chief opponent of the bill.

“Are we setting our children up for failure by introducing them too much and numbing them to the severity of this?

Putnam acknowledged that some school districts may not be teaching the subject appropriately, but “that’s up to the local counties, the local communities to get involved. It’s not up to me to oversee that.”

Chairman Andy Patrick, a Hilton Head Republican, challenged him to show how the bill wrests local control from communities. He said the state Department of Education would adopt a menu of acceptable curricula, local committees would be the ones to review the materials and give the go-ahead for use in a particular district.

Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, argued for its passage and pointed out that South Carolina ranks third in the nation for per capita sexually transmitted diseases in those ages 15 to 19.

“While it may not be everything that everybody would have liked to have had, I think it strikes a good balance between what we need to make sure there is uniformity and consistency from district to district in what we are instructing our children in the area of health education,” she said.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill were all Republicans: Samuel Rivers of Goose Creek, Don Wells of Aiken, Bill Taylor of Aiken, and Joshua Putnam of Anderson.

Voting in favor were Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head, and Democrats Jerry Govan of Orangeburg, Harold Mitchell of Spartanburg, and Robert Brown of Hollywood.

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