Teaching public-school students about practicing safe sex still remains a controversial idea in many parts of America, including in North Carolina. But a lot of legislators in the Tar Heel State see no problem with telling kids they're at risk of being trafficked for sex. North Carolina Senate Bill 279 would amend state sex-education standards to require all schools teach age-appropriate info on "the threats" of sex trafficking. A version of the legislation has already cleared the House.
The bill was originally introduced as a measure making slight changes to councelor credential requirements; the sex-education component was tacked on later. It states that schools must teach age-appropriate "sex trafficking prevention and awareness" as part of sexual education curriculum. The bill also says school administrators must collaborate with law enforcement agents when developing or presenting this material.
This is troubling enough on its own: Training cops on sex trafficking issues is often a collaborative effort by religious nonprofits and the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) who preach the new gospel of prostitution: that almost all women working in it were, at least originally, forced into it and should be treated as victims; that the Internet fuels a thriving child sex-slavery trade; that "ending demand" for adult prostitution by targeting johns and using other tough-on-prostitution measures are necessary to stop children from being sold into sexual slavery; and that there's a rampant and escalating problem with sex trafficking in the United States. But there is no solid evidence that any of these things are true. A DOJ-orchestrated, law-enforcement-centered sex trafficking "awareness" program for public school kids seems likely to spew the kind of fact-lite, panic-heavy propaganda that fueled school anti-drug programs like DARE.
But the potential to spread bad information and scare kids into thinking they're likely to be snatched up by sex traffickers probably isn't even the worst part of the North Carolina bill. Another component of its sex-trafficking education requirement is that schools must work with local law enforcement to develop "a referral protocol for high-risk pupils and minors." Note that it doesn't say the school must report if it suspects a minor is being sexually exploited, merely if they're deemed "at risk" of it, whatever that means. It's a scheme that seems at best redundant—if officials know a student is being sexually exploited, wouldn't they already report it to authorities?—and, at worst, likely to get state authorities unnecessarily involved in a lot more students' and families' life.
The last sex-ed rule change North Carolina lawmakers want to make is amending a requirement that sex-ed instruction be limited to "professionals and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education," instead allowing experts in "education, adolescent psychology, behavioral counseling, medicine, human anatomy, biology, ethics, or health education" to teach. While a loosening of strict occupational licscening regulations is usually something to cheer, the change is being promoted as a way to let schools create sex-ed programs that "better reflect the values of a community, stuff like Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family," as state Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Rosman) put it before a committee hearing earlier this month.
"I think this legislation has another intent," Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenberg) told WRAL News. "The real attempt is to allow faith-based sex education curriculum and make it available in our public schools."
A version of the legislation has already cleared the North Carolina House. SB 279 is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week.