Sex education bill spurs concerns

Parents would retain right to have children opt out of programs

Posted 3/4/19

The comprehensive sex education bill making its way through the state Legislature has spurred opposition from many in the religious and conservative communities, drawing concerns that the language of …

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Sex education bill spurs concerns

Parents would retain right to have children opt out of programs

Posted

The comprehensive sex education bill making its way through the state Legislature has spurred opposition from many in the religious and conservative communities, drawing concerns that the language of the legislation promotes abortion and the LGBTQ lifestyle and bans religious viewpoints.

“I don’t believe this bill, HB-1032, has parental rights in mind, I think it has other agendas behind it — the sexual revolution, if you will,” said Amy Zornes, a concerned parent who lives in Aurora. “I don’t think that this is academic at all and I think the education system should stick with academics. We are failing majorly in academic pursuits. This does not need to be pushed into the school system.”

Zornes was joined by her 15-year-old son and at least 100 others to protest outside the state Capitol in Denver on Feb. 27 to oppose the measure, House Bill 19-1032. The Comprehensive Sex Education bill, among other things, addresses the issue of consent and looks at how to define a healthy relationship regardless of sexual orientation.

The protest followed a 10-hour House committee hearing on the bill in which the House — which like the state Senate, is controlled by Democrats — approved it with a 39-23 vote. In its first hearing in the Senate by the Health and Human Services Committee Feb. 28, the bill also passed, with a 3-2 vote following party lines, with Republicans Jim Smallwood and Larry Crowder against, sending it to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.

“Colorado’s students deserve access to age-appropriate, accurate and comprehensive information regarding sex education to keep themselves and their classmates healthy and safe,” said state Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, co-sponsor of the bill. “This bill is also about teaching our students that not everyone is exactly the way you are and that’s OK because every Coloradan should be allowed to live our authentic lives.”

The other sponsors of the bill are Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton; Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora; and Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose.

Colorado does not have a mandatory sex education requirement, and the bill does not require schools to teach sex education. But existing law requires that if they do provide sex education it must be comprehensive — meaning they can’t teach abstinence only. This bill updates the 2013 comprehensive sex education law in three significant ways:

• It adds a requirement that Colorado public schools teach kids about consent.

• It removes a waiver for charter schools to opt out of the state’s sex ed requirements.

• It funds a grant program for schools that want to teach sex ed, but lack the resources to do so.

The loss of parental control is something many in opposition of the bill fear if it passes.

The 2013 law requires school officials to give parents “a detailed, substantive outline of the topics and materials to be presented during the human sexuality instruction” as well as a notice explaining how to opt out of the classes. The 2019 bill wouldn’t change that, but it would add another section that says parents don’t have to be notified about “programming on gender, gender expression, sexual orientation or healthy relationships that occurs outside of the context of human sexuality.”

Parents will still have the right to opt their kids out of sex education classes.

Zornes and others at the rally focused their concerns on the morality of the bill, which she fears would teach homosexual lifestyles and acts and forbid religious teachings.

“It’s a lot of teaching homosexual lifestyles,” Zornes said. “Homosexual acts will be encouraged and promoted in this curriculum rather than just a biological. I think that it’s an atrocity that we are treating this as if it’s normal.”

The incorporation of homosexual relationships is one part of the bill that has many conservatives concerned.

That part of the bill isn’t new. The 2013 law, signed by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, included a section on cultural sensitivity that required “the integration of knowledge about” the experiences of lesbian, gay and transgender people as well as people who experienced “sexual victimization” and those with intellectual disabilities.

What is new in the 2019 bill is a section that talks about gay and lesbian relationships in the context of healthy relationships as well as “teaching self-acceptance and respect for those whose sexuality, gender, gender expression, or lived experience differ from their own.”

The bill also says school districts that decide to teach sex education to their students must “reject the use of shame, stigma, fear and gender norms or gender stereotypes as instructional tools.”

The bill does not say that sexual acts will be taught.

Section 6 of HB 19-1032 states that nothing prohibits the discussion of “moral, ethical or religious values of individuals as they pertain to human sexuality.” However, those discussions can’t “teach or endorse religious ideology or sectarian tenets” and can’t exclude the “relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.”

The definition of healthy relationships is one that many protesters opposed. One sign at the rally depicted a drawing of a nuclear family — man, woman and two children — that read “God’s original design.”

Other signs called the bill a “porn bill,” a “radical sex ed bill” or called Democrats out for “forcing LGBTQ ed” on students.

But not all religious groups feel this way.

The Rev. Amanda Henderson, of Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, says factual health and development information is exactly what students need to choose respectful and loving relationships throughout their lives.

“We’re committed to advocating for the morality of inclusion and love in public policy — this sex education bill is an opportunity to demonstrate to all our youth, including LGBTQ students, that they are worthy of being treated with dignity and humanity,” said Henderson, whose group brings people together from many religions and backgrounds to promote rights, inclusion, equity and opportunity.

Others, like Christina Coffman, 26, a Centennial resident and member of Students for Life of America, worry that the bill will promote abortion as well as premarital sex and hormonal birth control.

While the bill does require teachers talk about U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, such as the birth-control pill and condoms, abortion wouldn’t be taught in that context, as it is not an FDA-approved method.

The bill also says discussion of “pregnancy outcomes” isn’t a required part of human sexuality courses. But if a teacher talks about pregnancy, then he or she has to talk about all outcomes — including adoption, parenthood and abortion — and cannot favor one over the others.

This is one part of the bill that state Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, disagrees with.

“It puts abortion on the same par as any other outcome of childbirth,” Neville said. “I think it’s a bad bill. I think the citizens are overwhelmingly saying that.”

The bill will be heard next by the Senate Appropriations Committee. As of press deadline, this was not yet scheduled. Visit leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1032 for updates.

 

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