The debate over sex education returned to the Capitol Tuesday as lawmakers took up a bill requiring parents to sign off on their children taking sex education courses.
The House Education Committee spent about an hour and a half listening to testimony on the bill, an outgrowth of a controversial poster at Hocker Grove Middle School in the Shawnee Mission School District.
The poster, listing in words various intimate and sexual acts, stirred controversy a year ago after a parent complained. The poster was part of supplemental material for a sex education class. The district stopped using the material after the controversy erupted.
Currently, the Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley, Olathe and Kansas City, Kan., school districts require students to opt out of sex education, the reverse of what the legislation would require.
Statistics show that at least in the case of Shawnee Mission and Olathe, very few students opt out of sex education. Last school year, Olathe reported four students opting out while Shawnee Mission reported 14.
The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican. She pushed the same bill last year but it never got much traction.
Pilcher-Cook used the Hocker Grove sex education poster as a rallying point, urging House members to give parents more control over their kids’ education.
She was joined by Phil Cosby, an anti-pornography activist who’s gained attention fighting against a nude statue in the Overland Park Arboretum.
Also supporting the bill was a group of parents who said they should have the right to decide how their children learn about human sexuality.
Meanwhile, opponents, including some members of the clergy, decried the bill. They contended it was bad public policy that would lead to students missing out on appropriate sex education that could prevent unwanted pregnancies and stop the spread of disease.
They argued that students might forget to get permission or some might not be able to get their parents’ consent because they’re neglected or live in abusive environments.
They argued that Pilcher-Cook’s bill does not consider the state’s most vulnerable children.
State law currently lets local school boards decide whether parents must opt in or opt out of sex education.
The state does not require sex education for graduation, but the course may be a component of physical education, which is a graduation requirement.
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