Respect Diversity + Inclusion

South Carolina court strikes down law banning LGBTQ+ sex ed

south carolina lgbtq+ schools public school law S.C. Code § 59-32-30(A)(5) unconstitutional equal rights sexual education same sex sexually transmitted infections STIs
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Story at a glance

  • In late February, three LGBTQ+ activist groups sued South Carolina’s state education superintendent over a decades-old law.
  • The law says that teachers may not teach health education regarding homosexuality.
  • Some students felt this was discriminatory.

A U.S. District Court in South Carolina sided with plaintiffs and agreed that a section of the state’s 1988 Comprehensive Health Education Program under the South Carolina Code of Laws — which prohibits teachers from discussing LGTBQ+ health matters in sexual education — is unconstitutional and henceforth banned. 

The statute, which states that South Carolina public schools can exclude teaching about LGBTQ+ sex education unless it discusses sexually transmitted infections (STIs), was found to have violated the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating against LGBTQ+ students and prohibiting them to have access to education about their sexual health. 

Specifically, teachers were not allowed to instruct on “alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships,” outside of the dangers of STIs. 

The lawsuit was brought forth by plaintiffs Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Campaign for Southern Equality, and the South Carolina Equality Coalition against defendant Molly Spearman, the South Carolina State Superintendent of Education. 

The complaint was filed on Feb. 26, 2020 with support from the South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose office said that “a court would likely conclude this provision unconstitutional as violative of Equal Protection.”

“I am very excited that this discriminatory law can no longer be enforced in South Carolina, and I hope we can continue to work toward a more accepting and equal state-wide community,” 10th grader Eli Bundy said in a press release. Bundy is also the president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). 

“I know how frustrating it can feel to be told by a teacher that they can’t talk about who you are. I’m so grateful that no other South Carolina student will have to go through school feeling like they have been erased,” Bundy said.

Superintendent Spearman must now ensure that the statute prohibiting lessons on LGTBQ+ relationships not be “enforced, applied, or relied on by any person or entity, including but not limited to local school districts, local school district boards, and public school administrators and teachers; and direct that instruction under the Comprehensive Health Education Act be designed and implemented without regard to S.C. Code § 59-32-30(A)(5),” per the court’s decree

Spearman must also provide public notice on the law change on the public websites of the State Board of Education and the Department of Education.