A Sterling Opportunity: 25 Years After the Comprehensive Health Education Act

On Monday January 14th 2013, the New Morning Foundation released a new report entitled, A Sterling Opportunity: 25 Years After the Comprehensive Health Education Act. The report assesses whether South Carolina’s 85 public school districts are in compliance with the Comprehensive Health Education Act of 1988 (CHEA) and whether the General Assembly’s legislative intentions have been fulfilled.

When the CHEA was passed in April of 1988, it was meant to standardize health education instruction for all South Carolina public schools.  The act included requirements for teaching reproductive health education and required the South Carolina Department of Education to monitor compliance with the Act.  This study found that the majority of South Carolina’s 85 school districts are not in compliance with the reproductive health education aspects of the Act.  Additionally, many districts do not have adequate or up-to-date policies regarding reproductive health education instruction.

This study is the first of its kind to assess the types of materials use to teach reproductive health education in South Carolina public schools.  The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was used to ensure compliance with the request for data from all South Carolina school districts resulting in 100 percent of school districts completing the request.

Evidence presented in the report demonstrates that the majority of students received sufficient instruction on abstinence, however reproductive health education lessons included little to no information about contraception or condom use.  In assessing the curricula and materials used in South Carolina classrooms, it was found that students in some school districts are exposed to reproductive health education that includes outdated gender roles, idealized family structures and medically inaccurate information.  Despite efforts made by the South Carolina Department of Education to monitor the delivery of health education, the data currently collected is not sufficient enough to determine the effectiveness of classroom instruction to reduce risky behaviors in school-aged youth.

The New Morning Foundation contracted with Health Advocates LLC, a leader in health education evaluation and training, and specifically Drs. David Wiley and Kelly Wilson, who acted as lead researchers in the project.

Ideally, this report will generate interest and facilitate conversations at the state and local levels about health education, sexuality education, teen pregnancy prevention and how all adolescent health risk behaviors affect high school graduation rates and ultimately the future of South Carolina.

Download the report: A Sterling Opportunity: 25 Years after the Comprehensive Health Education Act.

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