BOISE – The Senate Education Committee voted 5: 4 for MP Barbara Ehardt to keep the Sex Education Bill on the committee. HB 249 will not advance. The bill would have required students to obtain parental consent before taking classes on “human sexuality”. Classes would be more of an opt-in than an opt-out. This is the third year Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, introduced this type of legislation.
After hearing the testimony, the committee senators were concerned that some students would not be given classes on important topics such as sexually transmitted diseases because the definitions in the bill were not clear enough. Some have suggested that this is an issue that should be addressed by school authorities, not state legislators.
Others asked if the bill was trying to fix a problem that didn’t exist in Idaho. Senator Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, said he used the legislature’s two-week COVID-19 break to discuss with his daughter what she was taught about sex in school. She pulled her notes out of her health class. Woodward said his daughter’s classes were centered around abstinence. He did not see the aforementioned concerns from Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.
Ehardt had raised concerns that some schools might teach children that they are transgender or that they do not need their parents’ permission to have an abortion. Ehardt and her Senate co-sponsor, Senator Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, defended it as a “Parental Rights Act”.
HB 249 would have added new definitions to the existing code that would divide sex education into two areas: sex education and human sexuality.
“What I would suggest for those who feel that it is a gender identity problem, or some of these other problems defined in the definition of human sexuality, is that they come up with a bill with a solution, that we can discuss how to approach this problem. Until this debate takes place, I think this is a very sensible approach, ”said Thayn.
The bill defined sex education as “the study of the anatomy and physiology of human reproduction”. Ehardt left in the current code language, which enables parents to exclude their children from lessons on “sex education”. Under the current Code, all children receive anatomy and procreation instruction unless parents fill out written forms to remove their child from such instruction.
Education about “human sexuality”, on the other hand, was defined in Ehardt’s draft law as “any presentation, narration, discussion or reading task” about human sexuality about something other than anatomy and the physiology of reproduction. According to the bill, this includes “the issues of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, eroticism, sexual pleasure or sexual intimacy”.
In contrast to “sex education”, the lessons on “human sexuality” would have been an opt-in lesson according to Ehardt’s proposal. This would have meant that no child would receive lessons in human sexuality unless a parent had filled out written forms asking their child to attend these lessons.