Summer marks the end of state legislative sessions across the country, and only one state, Wisconsin, has passed legislation that impacts sexuality education. (In 2005, not one state passed legislation that impacted sexuality education.) While a few bills are still expected to be decided within the coming weeks, the majority of bills related to sexuality education have died in the legislature.
In Minnesota, legislation that would have encouraged school districts to implement age-appropriate, medically accurate sexuality education programs in grades K through 6 and mandate such education in grades 7 through 12, was not included in the final omnibus education bill. Although it initially passed in the Senate version of the bill, it was dropped when the House and the Senate reconciled their differing versions of the legislation. If passed, the resulting programs would have had to be age-appropriate, respect community values, and encourage family communication as well as “promot[e] responsible sexual behavior, including an abstinence-first approach to delaying initiation to sexual activity,” while including information about contraception. School districts would have been required to establish procedures for how parents and guardians could review all related educational materials. Parents and guardians would have retained their ability to remove their children from any or all of the sexuality education.
In Wisconsin, any school district that offers classes on sexuality education must now “ensure that instruction in marriage and parental responsibility is provided in the same course, during the same school year.” This is only a slight change from existing law which stated that instruction in marriage and parental responsibility were to be included in the same year as a course on human sexuality, but not necessarily during the same course.
In South Dakota, House Bill 1217 passed the House but died at the end of the legislative session when it had not been heard in the Senate. This bill would have placed numerous restrictions on what is taught in schools in part by removing all local decision making authority and prohibiting any comprehensive approach to sexuality education. This legislation would have decimated sexuality education in South Dakota and disempowered communities from choosing the best education for their young people.
Another restrictive bill is still advancing in Missouri. House Bill 1075 has passed the House and currently awaits consideration in the Senate. This legislation would require parental permission in order for a student to participate in sexuality education, commonly referred to as an opt-in policy. It would also prohibit any person or entity that is “a provider of abortion services” from providing, offering, sponsoring, or furnishing class materials or instruction on human sexuality. The bill includes an exemption if the abortion is necessary to save the “life of the mother.” Parents must also be notified about the names and affiliations of all instructors. This bill was clearly aimed at Planned Parenthood affiliates that often have trained sexuality educators on staff who work with schools but would prohibit any and all [or “the vast majority” if more accurate] family planning clinics and many local health departments from presenting in schools. Bucking current legislative and policy trends, the bill would also remove the requirement for information in these classes to be factually accurate. Representative Beth Low ( D-Kansas City ) stated her opposition to the bill saying, “ignorance is not a form of birth control.” She continued, “by creating an opt-in standard we are going to prevent many students from getting the sex ed they are not getting at home.”1
As other state sessions end, advocates in Missouri continue to await the outcome of this legislation. Echoing their concerns, Rebecca Fox, assistant director for public policy at SIECUS, stated “we hope that Missouri 's legislature stands up for the young people of its state and enacts only legislation that guarantees them access to the necessary information to protect their health and well-being.”
- Tim Hoover, “Sex-ed Bill Wins Early OK, “ Kansas City Star, 26 April 2005, accessed online on 15May 2006, <http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/living/education/14428431.htm>.