State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
South Carolina schools are required to teach reproductive health education.
- Curriculum is not required to align with the National Sex Education Standards.
- Curriculum must stress abstinence.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent. However, the South Carolina Standards for Health and Safety Education recommend instruction on consent.
- Instruction on abortion as a method of birth control is prohibited unless in the context of discussing the complications it may cause.
- Parents must be informed in advance of any sexuality-specific instruction and are allowed to remove their children from any part of the health education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
- Teachers who fail to comply with the curriculum established by the school board are subject to dismissal.
- South Carolina has no regulation regarding medically accurate sex education instruction.
Public schools in South Carolina are required to provide sexually transmitted disease (STD) education beginning in grade 6, but they are prohibited from providing information on STDs to students prior to that time. Schools are not required to teach about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). State law specifies that age-appropriate reproductive health education may be offered for grades K–5. STDs and reproductive health are required to be included as a part of comprehensive health education in grades 6–8, and pregnancy prevention may be addressed. Students must also receive at least 750 minutes of reproductive health education and pregnancy prevention education at least one time over the course of grades 9 through 12. Pregnancy prevention education must be presented in gender segregated settings.
According to South Carolina Code Annotated §§ 59-32-10, ‘“Reproductive health education’ means instruction in human physiology, conception, prenatal care and development, childbirth, and postnatal care, but it does not include instruction concerning sexual practices outside marriage or practices unrelated to reproduction except within the context of the risk of disease. Abstinence and the risks associated with sexual activity outside of marriage must be strongly emphasized.”
The law explains, “[c]ontraceptive information must be given in the context of future family planning.” In addition, no school may distribute contraceptives. Abortion may only be discussed in the context of the complications that it may cause and “must not be mentioned as a method of birth control.”
The law establishes that any public school educator who is found in violation of the provisions of the chapter or who fails to comply with the curriculum established by the school board is subject to dismissal. Private schools are not required to comply with South Carolina’s sex education requirements established under the state’s comprehensive health education program.
In 2020, the U.S. District Court for South Carolina declared S.C. Code § 59-32-30(A)(5) unconstitutional. The lawsuit alleged that the code violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). The statute had previously prohibited districts from including in their health education any “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.”
Parents must be informed in advance of any sexuality-specific instruction and are allowed to remove their children from any part of the health education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
State Profiles provided by SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. For more information regarding your state’s sex ed policy, visit https://siecus.org/state_profile/south-carolina-state-profile-23/