Family Life Programs FAQs

Parents are the best advocates for the quality of their children’s sexual health education. At the Poe Center for Health Education, we believe that the most effective educational experience happens when educators, parents, and youth work together. Shedding some of the mystery and misconceptions about sexual health education is a good place to start.

We know that parents and youth often have questions about what a Family Life program at the Poe center actually entails. We have addressed a few of the most frequently asked questions below. If you have any additional questions, please email Robin Pittman, director of Family Life programs.

Family Life education or sexual health education is more commonly referred to as “sex education.” It is a holistic approach that provides medically accurate and age-appropriate lessons to youth on topics, such as abstinence, sexually transmitted infection facts and prevention, FDA-approved contraceptive methods, reproductive anatomy, sexual assault/abuse, protective factors and risk reduction, healthy relationships, consent, decision making, goal setting, values, and communication. Ultimately, Family Life education is about educating youth about what is happening to their bodies during puberty and teaching them to make smart, healthy, and safe choices as they go through adolescence.

Yes. All North Carolina schools are required to teach sexual health education. In 2009, North Carolina adopted a state law called the Healthy Youth Act (HYA). This law updated the State’s previous sexuality education in public schools to make it more comprehensive. It is called Reproductive Health and Safety Education. HYA states that all local school systems must provide medically-accurate, age-appropriate sex education that includes information on the benefits of abstinence, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) facts and prevention, FDA contraceptive methods, human trafficking, and sexual assault/abuse risk reduction in grades 7-9.

The information provided in Reproductive Health and Safety Education must be age-appropriate, accurate, and based on peer-reviewed and approved scientific research. Youth, fourth through twelfth grades, receive age-appropriate information about puberty and reproductive health that aligns with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Healthful Living and Science Essential Standards.

No. Each school district has local control and decisions about what curricula to use. However, each related lesson must meet the Healthful Living Essential Standards that are mandatory by law.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, students who participate in sexual education classes are more likely to delay sexual activity, report having healthier relationships, have higher academic performance, use contraceptives, and are less likely to have an unintended pregnancy or cause a pregnancy. Read more: What Works: Sexual Health Education

No. In 4th and 5th grades, students will learn about the physical, social, and emotional changes that happen to their growing bodies during adolescence. Here is an outline of the Healthy Essential Standards taught during the Poe Center’s Puzzled by Puberty program.

Yes. Depending on the school district, parents and guardians can either withdraw their child from any component of sexual education instruction or offer written consent for their children to participate in sex education programs. These policies are known as “opt-out” and “opt-in,” respectively. Most school districts will provide an “opt-out” form or an “opt-in” form for parents before the lessons begin.

Family Life programs taught at the Poe Center are developed to provide all young people with age-appropriate sexuality education in an inclusive way. While our curriculum does not discuss sexual orientation and gender identity, all classes are taught by health education specialists who prioritize a safe and inclusive learning environment for all.

North Carolina state law requires schools to teach the effectiveness and safety of all FDA approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Contraceptive methods, including condoms, are not available for demonstration or distribution. The benefits of abstinence are reinforced throughout the classes.

Yes. All schools must have their sexual health education curriculum available for parents to review. At the Poe Center, parents may attend classes with their child and/or review the materials in advance.

Absolutely! Our recommendation is just a guideline. As a parent/guardian, you know your child best and may choose which programs you would like your child to attend that best fits their needs.

The primary goal for school systems, staff, teachers, and health educators from the Poe Center is to teach medically-accurate information and to partner with parents to keep the conversations going. The goal is to serve as a resource, not a replacement for parents and our communities as a whole. We encourage parents and guardians to partner with their child’s school and educators. Take the opportunity to review the materials and learn about the curriculum. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask questions if you are uncertain or nervous about discussing a particular topic.

Like all programs at the Poe Center, Family Life programs are developed and taught by experienced professional health educators with credentials in their respective fields. Health educators participate in regular training to ensure current instructional materials and methods comply with law, are medically accurate, reflect current research, are science-based, and are inclusive.

If you have any additional questions, please email Robin Pittman, Director of Family Life programs.