State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
North Carolina schools are required to teach sex education through “comprehensive health education”.
- Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive and must explain the benefits of abstinence.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the curriculum must teach that a “faithful monogamous heterosexual marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding STDs”.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
- Parents and guardians must have the ability to either exempt their children from any portion of sex education instruction through written notification to the school principal or to give written permission for their children to participate in sex education instruction, depending on the school district. These are referred to as “opt-out” and “opt-in” policies, respectively.
- Curriculum must be medically accurate.
North Carolina General Statutes § 115C-81.25 and 115C-81.30 require schools to teach a comprehensive health education program, which includes instruction on the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Schools must stress the importance of parental involvement and teach refusal skills and strategies to handle peer pressure. Comprehensive health education must include “reproductive health and safety education” beginning in seventh grade. Such instruction must teach “that abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children” and “that a mutually faithful, monogamous, heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding [STDs], including HIV/AIDS,” among other stipulations. With respect to contraception and family planning, the law requires instruction to teach:
- “… how [STDs] are and are not transmitted, the effectiveness and safety of all federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of reducing the risk of contracting [STDs], and information on local resources for testing and medical care for [STDs] …; and
- The effectiveness and safety of all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy.”
The information included in reproductive health and safety education must be age-appropriate, objective, and based upon scientific research that is peer reviewed and accepted by professionals in the field of sexual health education. Students may receive information about where to obtain contraceptives and abortion referral services only in accordance with a local board’s policy regarding parental consent. Contraceptives, including condoms and other devices, shall not be made available or distributed on school property. Instruction must also teach “awareness of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and risk reduction” and focus on healthy relationships.
The State Board of Education shall make available a list of reviewed materials, any approved textbooks and other approved materials for discussion regarding pregnancy and STDs, including HIV prevention, to parents and legal guardians at least 60 days before such instruction is provided in the classroom.
North Carolina law also requires local school boards to “adopt policies to provide opportunities either for parents and legal guardians to consent or for parents and legal guardians to withhold their consent for the students’ participation in any or all of these programs.” These are referred to as “opt-in” and “opt-out” policies, respectively.
State Profiles provided by SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. For more information regarding your state’s sex ed policy, visit https://siecus.org/state_profile/north-carolina-state-profile-23/