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PrEP
Student-Created Education Program Dismissed by Superintendent

Macon County, NC

After assessing the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a group of students decided that sexual activity was the most troubling issue among their peers.  The students pointed out the sizeable number of girls in their high school who were pregnant, and determined that while illicit drug use (including alcohol) is routinely addressed in schools, sexual activity remains taboo and shrouded in myths and misinformation. 

The students developed a new peer-education program entitled “Sexy Abs - Sense Enough to Expand Your Awareness About Sex.” Sexy Abs was designed to be a “peer talk program,” which would be presented to area middle-schoolers by trained high-school students.1  The curriculum would include engaging skits about common situations teens may face, such as how alcohol at parties relates to sex and sexually transmitted diseases.  The students developing the program received help from professionals, including those from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the Macon County Health Department.2 

The student spokesperson met with the superintendent early in the process.  “We explained everything to him, including the peer talk,” she said.  “He didn’t discourage us in any way.”3  She added that the superintendent suggested she address the board about her concerns with the county’s sexuality education policy.  “I wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t suggested it,” she said.4 

The students presented an outline of the program to the school board in April and board members were supportive.  The superintendent, however, had an apparent change of heart and told the students that “there would be no kids teaching kids about sex.”  He noted, “this is not the direction we need to go,” and that parents should be more proactive in speaking with their children about sex.5  Citing his prerogative to “refuse the program independently,” he refused to allow the Macon County Board of Education to discuss or formally vote on the curriculum, effectively stymieing any attempts to further the program.6

One board member “expressed disappointment” when she learned that the issue would not go forward.  “I think they would have done a fine job,” she said.  “We need to have people stand up and say this is something that is needed.”7  Another Board member also felt let down.  “We got an email with the rough draft,” he said and continued, “With a few changes, I would have no problem with it.”8  Many other members of the board also felt that the topic was prematurely pulled from discussion.

The Macon County School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), a state mandated board of health professionals, has announced its support for “Sexy Abs.” While SHAC can only making policy recommendations not changes, it has strongly endorsed the student-created program.  One member of the council who also serves as the Assistant Director of the Public Health Department, has stated, “They [the students] had conducted themselves with dignity and put in a lot of hard work”.  The students were told that a template for their program would “remain for future years when the administration and the system catch up with you.”9

The students, however, have no plans to drop the subject.  They plan to continue writing letters to their state representatives and educating themselves in hopes that the peer-education program could be revisited in the future. 

SIECUS will continue to monitor this situation.

References

  1. Beth Seay, “‘Sexy Abs’ shot down by Superintendent Brigman,” The Macon County News & Shopping Guide, 03 May 2007, accessed 22 May 2007 http://maconnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=659&Itemid=34.Ibid.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Beth Seay, “Health Advisory Committee Supports Expanding Sex Ed,” The Macon County News & Shopping Guide, 24 May 2007, accessed 29 May 2007 < http://www.maconnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=766&Itemid=34>

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