Last week I was jeered for a response to a question from the public at a town hall meeting. The question was about House Bill 120, sponsored by an eastern Idaho legislator. The issue originated from parents expressing concern about the content of materials distributed in a sex education course within the student’s health class. I have seen some of the materials and understand why some parents may be concerned. The current law allows a parent the right to opt-out of a sex education course. However, many parents are concerned that they never know when such a course is being held, nor the course content. Parents have the right to review curriculum and opt-out. The basic premise of opting out is that the parents are adequately informed.
I understand that schools do send home, with their teenagers, the opt-out form. Many students testified against the change to “opting-in” citing the challenge of students bringing home a form to parents. They worried the parent would not get the form and the student would not be included in the course. Isn’t that the point? The only real notice of the course relies on teenagers delivering a piece of paper to parents. The change to opt-in places more responsibility on schools to proactively reach parents. They already require approval of parents to allow a student to participate in school activities including field trips and sports. No form signed by parents, no participation by the student. There is a high approval rate of such activities largely because the school, teachers and students take a proactive role to follow-up on the notice.
The opt-in bill places an equally high pro-active burden to assure that the parent is informed of what content is included and when their child participates in the sex education course. The outrage in eastern Idaho was specifically the result of the use of guest presenters and their use of questionable material reputed to not have been approved by the local school board of trustees.
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Last Saturday’s Times-News “jeer” was directed at my comparison to the restrictions on movies. I was accurately quoted that students who testified against the bill “…. were clear: we want sexual education.” I continued, “Well they want to get into R-17 movies too, but they are not allowed to do that.” The point which I believe everyone at the town hall understood was with parental permission many minors can participate in activities that some parents may not permit, but requires an opt-in.
The Times News has had minimal contact with me during this legislative session which began in January. Unfortunately, one sound bite from an extensive discussion was reported, missing, I believe, an opportunity to deliver a more thorough report on this important bill.
I have been and always am available to the media and public for questions, comments or clarification on issues in person, via phone or email. I look forward to the Times-News reaching out to me in the future.