TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) - A proposed law that would require parental consent for Kansas students to take sex education classes is sparking debate on whether it would benefit students or throw the state back to Puritan times.
House Bill 2199 , introduced by Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, would require Kansas schools to switch from an opt-out program - allowing parents to keep their children out of sex education classes - to an opt-in program, in which students can receive sex education only if their parents sign a consent form. The bill would also give parents full access to all curriculum materials.
The Kansas State Board of Education sets standards for health education in public schools and allows school districts to choose whether to offer an opt-out or opt-in method. The state board offers a model curriculum for sex education, along with letters for parent approval or refusal of the program.
If H.B. 2199 becomes law, Kansas will join only three other states - Arizona, Nevada and Utah - that require opt-in parental consent for sex education.
House Bill 2199 is a "dramatic reversal" of the system, Kansas ACLU Executive Director Micah Kubic said in a statement.
"By requiring parents to opt their children in, the chances increase dramatically that a student will not receive the kind of information they need to protect their health as they mature. State government should be removing barriers to the protection of the health and well-being of young people, not creating new ones," Kubic said.
The House Education Committee last week heard testimony on HB 2199, whose drafting was prompted by controversy last year over a poster listing explicit sexual acts that was displayed on a Shawnee middle school door.
The poster also prompted the introduction in January of a separate bill, S.B. 56 , which would jail public school teachers for teaching "harmful material."
The poster asked: "How do people express their sexual feelings?" and listed answers such as "hugging, kissing, saying 'I like you' and talking" along with other possibilities: "oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, vaginal intercourse, grinding, and touching each other's genitals."
State Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, who testified in support of HB 2199, cited the poster, which was part of an "abstinence plus" program at Hocker Grove Middle School. Pilcher Cook said the poster offered children "a complete menu of X-rated sexual acts."
"It was a shock to many parents that this poster was part of a sexual education curriculum. The poster had a list of phrases which were so obscene they cannot even be displayed by television stations without violating FCC rules," Pilcher Cook said.
"Most decisions within education should be left up to the local school districts," Pilcher Cook said. "But this episode begs the question: Do we really think, as state legislators, that it would ever be in the state's interest for teachers to discuss highly offensive, sexually explicit acts with young children without the knowledge of a parent?"
Opponents of HB 2199 say the bill would keep vital information from children who deserve education about their bodies.