Administrators at Fort Mill High School (search) decided to remove gay marriage and stem cell research from the agenda of a planned student debate out of concern that they might clash with a state law on sex education.

The topics originally were on a list of eight approved by Principal David Damm for use in a student-run debate scheduled for Oct. 19. The debate is intended to mirror the debates between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

A debate announcement said issues such as education, taxes, jobs, the war in Iraq and faith-based initiatives would be discussed, but "because of South Carolina laws, we cannot discuss such controversial issues as stem cell research (search), abortion or homosexual marriages (search)."

Abortion was among the topics proposed by students that the principal rejected.

Both Damm and Superintendent Thomas Dowling said the restriction referred to the state's health education act, which prohibits health class discussion on abortion and homosexual sex.

Dowling said the administration was concerned that if these topics were supposed to be excluded in a classroom setting, "quite possibly, it's an exclusion that would carry over" to a student debate.

Dale Stuckey, chief counsel for the state Education Department, said she has not seen stem cell research mentioned in the statute.

"There is nothing in state law that prohibits in general discussion of any topic," Stuckey said.