On Friday at Idaho House, an updated version of the Sex Education Act was passed by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, requiring parents to engage students in discussions about human sexuality.
Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, first proposed moving from an opt-out to an opt-in for sex education two years ago. The Senate Education Committee killed the first version of their bill in 2019, citing concerns about the potential cost and impact on a wide variety of academic disciplines.
Member of Parliament Barbara Ehardt
In Idaho, parents can opt out of sex education discussions with their children. Ehardt’s new bill would keep this opt-out process for discussions about the general anatomy and physiology of human reproduction. If discussions go beyond human sexuality, parents would have to sign a form giving their child express permission to participate.
Ehardt’s bill defines human sexuality as any presentation that “encompasses the topics of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, eroticism, sexual pleasure, or sexual intimacy”.
“We are not changing the content of sex education,” Ehardt told members of the house. “We’re changing the agreement and saying that some of these issues are – I think all of them, to be honest – that parents need to be involved.”
A number of Republican officials spoke out in favor of Ehardt’s bill, saying it would allow parents to defend their religious values and demand more parental consent in raising a child. Democrats said House Bill 249 would hurt students whose parents simply forgot to sign a permit and could leave more teenagers without the necessary information to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
D-Garden City Rep. John McCrostie asked if the bill would prevent teachers from discussing current events or political appointments, such as the appointment of the country’s first openly gay US cabinet member, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“Talking about sexual orientation doesn’t make anyone gay. Talking about gender identity doesn’t make anyone transgender. And talking about sex doesn’t make anyone pregnant, ”said McCrostie. “Do not punish parents who, because of their own extenuating circumstances, cannot be so involved in their children’s lives. You can take traditional views and still get this information without losing any of those heartfelt values. “
The bill was passed with 56-12 votes.
A group of Treasure Valley students who testified on the House Education Committee against HB 249 plans to hold a protest on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse at 5:00 p.m. Friday.
“This bill puts the safety of my entire generation at risk,” wrote 16-year-old organizer Abby Gnojewski in a press release. “Many teenagers will have intercourse, whether their parents like it or not. Not every child has a parent willing / able to have these important conversations with them. Without the critical knowledge imparted in full sex, children will engage in unsafe sexual activities. “
About Sami Edge
University of Oregon graduate reporter Sami Edge joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association Scholar reporting on results from Latino students in Idaho. She is also a 2019 American Press Institute Fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].
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