COLUMBIA, S.C. — A coalition of groups with Tell Them SC and The New Morning Foundation are advocating for updated changes in South Carolina’s more than 20-year-old comprehensive sex education law, citing updated medical and scientific accuracy, teacher training and accountability.

Ryan Wilson

South Carolina Equality, a statewide LGBT education and advocacy organization, is a member of the coalition.

“So much has changed in 25 years,” South Carolina Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson told qnotes. “It’s time to revisit the law and try to update some of the things in South Carolina that aren’t working so well.”

Wilson was at a press conference in Columbia yesterday championing a bill to overhaul the current law. The bill would require “medically accurate and factual” sexual health education, including reproductive health topics and pregnancy prevention. Information taught would be required to be research-based and published in peer-review journals or otherwise supported by mainstream medial or health organizations. Teachers would also be required to be certified in health education.

“Teen pregnancy rates are so high, STD rates are so that,” Wilson said. “That leeds to higher drop out rates and other health risks. It’s time our state went back and revisited this law.”

Opponents of the proposed legislation say focus will be shifted away from abstinence-based education. The new health curriculum would require teaching on a so-called “abstinence plus” model, which stresses abstinence-until-marriage but also provides medically-accurate and age-appropriate safer sex topics, such as the use of condoms.

The new legislation, however, would leave untouched a provision in state law limiting discussion of LGBT relationships.

“The program of instruction provided for in this section may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases,” the law reads.

Wilson said some critics in LGBT circles have said the law is akin to Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. That state’s proposed law would have prohibited all discussion of LGBT topics from the classroom, among other draconian measures such as outing gay students to parents.

“This is not a ‘don’t say gay’ bill,” he said. “This provides guidance on when discussing LGBt issues, focusing solely on STD prevention. … This is part of an ongoing process to make sure all young people, including LGBT youth, are getting access to the information they are currently not getting.”

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.