1/28/16 Change in law could affect classes

Change in law could affect classes
Outside consultants could be brought in to talk about drugs, sex education
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 1/28/16    
Reprinted with permission.      

Middle and high school students could see some new faces in class.

A change, originating in Alamance County, in the state’s law on the qualifications for counseling students could have consultants from outside the school district speaking to healthful living classes, which includes reproductive health and safety, drug and alcohol education, physical activity and nutrition.

The idea is to add awareness of sex trafficking to what was once called sex education, said Rep. Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance County. The law, Senate Bill 279, passed in the last hours of the last state legislative session, loosens the requirements for people who can come in to help teach a healthful-living class to include law enforcement or anti-trafficking nonprofit groups like Alamance for Freedom, Riddell said.

“So welcoming everybody you can who is of good faith and good intent,” Riddell said.

Consultants would not be restricted to human trafficking, said Robin Finberg, ABSS executive director of curriculum and professional development, but all parts of the curriculum.

That has drawn criticism of the law, saying it weakens sex education by opening these classes to instructors who are not credentialed experts in the field of sex education.

Schools would have to recommend a consultant, and ABSS student services would have to approve the consultant, Finberg said.

Riddell said the idea for this legislation came from Karen Graham, a nurse at Southern Alamance High School. Graham said she got involved with Alamance for Freedom after visiting an orphanage housing trafficking victims on an African mission trip.

“So it was something I was interested in, and I could see with students that there was some risk of that,” Graham said.

The bill became very controversial as it went through the legislative process.

Riddell said some things “not germane to trafficking” were inserted in conference, including a provision that would prevent local governments from passing ordinances protecting gay people from housing discrimination. Those additions did not make it through, Riddell said, and the controversy passed. “That was an interesting trip it took,” Graham said. The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education voted this week to begin incorporating the legislation into district policy.

New standards on healthful-living curricula still include comprehensive sex education, including birth control, and parents still have to “opt in” and give consent for their children to see the material.