Lawmakers push for sex education reform in SC schools

By Nikki

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) It's a three letter word some critics argue isn't taught enough in schools: sex.

"I had an eighth grader pregnant with her third child, and I was pregnant with my first when I was 30," said Beth Lewis, a teacher at Moultrie Middle.

Lewis also teaches sex education and says a lot of students are getting the wrong information about sex from their friends, the Internet, and television.

"It's amazing the questions that I get, what kids think. They just have a lot of misinformation," said Lewis.

Bill 3435 recently introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives aims to change that.

"It would increase teacher training and really bring our teachers the support and resources they need to be trained in health education," said Emma Davidson, with the New Morning Foundation, a Columbia-based group educating the public about bill.

On Thursday, the group held a public forum at the College of Charleston. Davidson says teen pregnancies cost the state $2 million annually.

"Twenty percent of middle school students in South Carolina are sexually active and over 50 percent of high school students self report that they are sexually active," said Davidson.

In 1988, state lawmakers passed the Comprehensive Health Education Act. It aimed to standardize health and sex education in public schools. Critics argue the law, however, is flawed.

"It's almost like having a speed limit, but no police to enforce it," said Lewis.

The group supporting the current legislation says in a recent study that 75 percent of school districts were found to be in violation of some portion of the law.

"We put this law out there but we don't have any funding to back the training," said Lewis.

At Thursday's forum, some argued that sex education starts in the home and it's abstinence that should be stressed in the schools.

"Only about two percent of people make it these days until marriage, abstaining from sex," said pediatrician Trish Hutchison.

When it comes to sex education, Hutchison says parents and schools need to work together.

"It's very important to get these messages earlier before they actually become sexually active," said Hutchison.

Lewis, who's worked in the classroom for more than 20 years, agrees.

"I'm their first educator as a parent. If what I say is then being reinforced in the schools, it helps me. We work as a team," said Lewis.

A house subcommittee is expected to hold a hearing on the bill in the next few weeks.