An “opt-in” bill for courses in human sexuality is dead for the session.
With a 5 to 4 vote, the Senate Education Committee rejected House Bill 249, which would have given parents the right to include their children in sexuality classes.
Under current law, which remains in effect despite Wednesday’s vote, local school districts decide on sex education and human sexuality curricula. Parents have the right to exclude children from sex education classes.
HB 249 would not have changed the opt-out language for sex – in discussions about the physiology of sex. However, the bill would have added an opt-in language for discussions on “the topics of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, eroticism, sexual pleasure or sexual intimacy”.
R-Idaho Falls Rep. Barbara Ehardt will discuss her sex education bill on Wednesday.
Bill sponsor Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, said the logon language was necessary as national groups push for more graphic sexual content in the classroom. “It’s about to hit Idaho like you don’t understand,” she said.
The vote, as well as the testimony and committee debate on Wednesday, focused on issues of parental rights and concern for children at risk.
“Parents know their children,” said Sonya Harris, a Blackfoot School trustee, calling on the committee to support HB249.
Licensed social worker Monae Harris called access to sex education “a fundamental human right” and urged lawmakers to consider victims of sexual abuse – and parents and guardians who may not have the best interests of children.
The committee members were also divided.
Senator Janie Ward-Engelking, a Boise Democrat and retired educator, spoke about two of her former students who died of suicide after grappling with gender identity issues.
HB 249 co-sponsor Steven Thayn, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, acknowledged that some students face difficult situations but opposed a “one-size-fits-all” approach to rights of all parents.
“There’s a balance issue here,” said Thayn, R-Emmett.
The vote in committee on Wednesday was a clear reversal.
On March 5, HB 249 passed the House in a party line.
In the formation of the Senate, the bill met bipartisan opposition. Republicans Carl Crabtree of Grangeville, Dan Johnson of Lewiston, and Jim Woodward of Sagle joined Democrats David Nelson of Moscow and Ward-Engelking to kill the bill. Republicans Lori Den Hartog of Meridian and Kevin Cook and Dave Lent of Idaho Falls supported Thayn in support of the law.
The Idaho Education News remotely covered the hearing on Wednesday.
About Kevin Richert
Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education policy and policy. He has over 30 years of journalism experience in Idaho. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television; and “Idaho Matters” on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]
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