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Sex Ed Is Already Sparse For NC Students — And COVID-19 Is Making It Worse

A banana with a condom on it.

Can you do condom demonstration over Zoom? What about teaching comprehensive sexual education? In the midst of a pandemic, the answer is unclear. On this segment of Embodied, host Anita Rao talks with Elizabeth Finley about gaps in sex ed brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Finley is the director of strategic communications for Shift NC, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to improving sexual health in teens and young adults. Educators have shared with her that sexual education is at the bottom of the totem pole in the transition to remote learning. Teachers are struggling to cover core subjects like reading and math, which take higher priority.

''The concept of asymptomatic carriers - that people can look healthy and feel healthy but still transmit something or test positive - in this case for coronavirus ... the same is true with many STIs.''

North Carolina’s Healthy Youth Act of 2009 only mandates public schools offer sexuality education courses to students in seventh, eighth and ninth grade. If students were slated for those classes this spring, Finley says, it is likely they will never receive that course. Online resources like Amaze and Scarleteen can fill the gap. Still, questions of internet access and household attitude toward LGBTQ youth complicate whether or not kids out of school will receive comprehensive sex education.

Check out SHIFT NC's list of online sexual education resources here.


Josie Taris left her home in Fayetteville in 2014 to study journalism at Northwestern University. There, she took a class called Journalism of Empathy and found her passion in audio storytelling. She hopes every story she produces challenges the audience's preconceptions of the world. After spending the summer of 2018 working in communications for a Chicago nonprofit, she decided to come home to work for the station she grew up listening to. When she's not working, Josie is likely rooting for the Chicago Cubs or petting every dog she passes on the street.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
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