Gwinnett school district votes to keep abstinence-only sex education program

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — After months of backlash, Gwinnett County Public Schools will stick with an abstinence-only curriculum while upgrading its health education program.

The move comes after a panel decided the health curriculum did not meet current state requirements.

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In February, Channel 2 Action News learned the county wanted to overhaul its sex education curriculum, after 22 years of teaching abstinence-only education. The proposed change would be included in what was described as a more comprehensive health curriculum.

Channel 2′s Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Matt Johnson reported on the initial controversy in March when parents began speaking out against the upgrade because the sex education units went beyond abstinence to teach about gender, anatomy and reproduction, and sexuality.

State Superintendent Richard Woods was among those pushing back against the program, in addition to the parents. He asked the Gwinnett County Board of Education to hold off on their vote in March.

The Board pushed the vote back just before it was set to start in mid-March.

Parents like Catherine Craig were at the board meeting Thursday when the vote was scheduled.

“Obviously, teens are going to be teens, but I think with regards to sexual education, I think the majority of that should come from the home,” Craig told Channel 2′s Courtney Francisco.

Mariela Torres argued something different.

“I think our children need to be educated at school. Sometimes, they don’t get it at home,” said Torres.

Mary Clauson is a volunteer for teens in crisis in Gwinnett County and she spoke in front of the board Thursday.

“Safest thing you can do is not to have sex, and we will tell you why and what the studies show,” said Clauson.


The school board voted 5-to-1 to buy the new health education curriculum but extract the portions on sex ed. Until a panel can assess the current abstinence-based program, GCPS will continue using it.

Dr. Tarece Johnson is the board member who voted against the plan. She said she expected more data on the current sex ed program before the vote.

Students studying at home dialed in.

“Striking the sex ed part of the curriculum for the entirety of the healthcare curriculum is kind of a weak move, and it defeats the purpose,” said Eddie Madden.

Next, a panel will examine the district’s sex ed curriculum and determine if it meets current state standards.

The Georgia Department of Education requires all schools to teach peer pressure and abstinence as the effective method to prevent HIV and pregnancy. Parents can remove their child from the program with written notification.

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