All but about a dozen North Carolina school districts limit sex education to a focus on preventing HIV and sexually transmitted diseases through abstinence, state education officials announced. A 1995 state law allows districts in which parents request expanded instruction to include condom demonstrations and more in-depth discussion of HIV, STDs, and birth control. "But there are only about 12 school systems that have held public hearings and expanded their programs in the state," said Sherry Lehman of the state Department of Public Instruction.
More than 100 districts statewide offer health education courses that discuss puberty and STDs and present abstinence until marriage as the best way to avoid disease. Condoms and birth control methods are discussed only in describing their rates of effectiveness, with the failure rates often the only statistics cited. But comprehensive sex education advocates say that many young people in the state are having sex and need to be taught how to protect themselves against HIV and sexually transmitted disease infections. A 1997 statewide study found that 61% of North Carolina high school students were sexually active. The state also has one of the nation's highest rates of teen pregnancies.