COLUMBIA - House lawmakers agreed Tuesday to update South Carolina's 26-year-old sex education curriculum to include the teaching of safe sex, which supporters say would help reduce pregnancy and dropout rates.
The measure, which still requires another vote before it can advance to the Senate for its consideration, was opposed by at least one lawmaker who said it would overturn the current practice of teaching abstinence only.
The House voted 57-53 in favor of the bill, which would require sex-education instructors to teach medically accurate information, including the use of contraceptives. Abstinence would still be stressed in classrooms.
To ensure compliance, school districts would also be required to file reports with the state and parents detailing what they are teaching and in what grade. Under current law, there's no punishment for noncompliance and many districts don't even bother to fill out an annual, self-reported state survey on their sex-ed curriculum.
Sponsor Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Pickens, said the bill is needed to help prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as decrease abortions, high school dropout rates, and even poverty levels.
"This is not a panacea for solving all of those problems," Skelton said. "But if it solves it a little bit and decreases teen pregnancies a little bit and decreases STDs a little bit, then we are all a whole lot better off."
Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, opposed the bill on the grounds that it overturns abstinence education.
"I just have a real struggle with the whole concept that it is the school's responsibility to be doing that in the first place," Nanney said.
Nanney said that if they are going to be teaching sex ed in schools, it should be abstinence-only.