Clark County, NV Parents Debate Opt-In/Opt-Out Sex Education


In Nevada, a Clark County School Board meeting was packed with parents who were intent on letting their opposition to changes to an opt-in policy mandated by the Nevada Legislature that requires consent from parents before any public school student becomes a participant in sex education classes, says Neal Morton, reporting for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The only way the policy can be changed is for local school boards to lobby state lawmakers. Some parents want the class to change to an opt-out approach that automatically enrolls a student unless his parents say otherwise.  But the majority of the parents who attended the meeting urged Clark County School District officials not to take any position regarding the class other than supporting the opt-in approach.

After hours of public input, the board voted not to recommend that the sex education advisory committee revisit the opt-in option. Nevada, Mississippi, and Utah require parental consent before a student can join a sex education class, reports the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Those who supported the opt-out policy noted that data from the US Department of Health and Human Services shows that the teen birth rate in Nevada is 30.3 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19. The national rate is 26.5 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. The state rates have, however, decreased 58% between the years 1991 and 2013.

Many of the parents attending the board meeting were members of the prominent Power2Parent, a group that supports giving parents the right to decide whether their children receive sex education. The Las Vegas Sun’s Ian Whitaker says the issue has been debated hotly over the last year. The law has been in place since the 1980s.

Those at the meeting who supported the change to opt-out, namely the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and Planned Parenthood, said the reason for making the change, in their opinion, is the over 6,000 students, according to some estimates, who are excluded from the class because they do not have signed permission slips.

These kids, most often because of the lack of parental involvement, do not get sex education and are likely the ones who need it most. Also in this population of kids might be parents who are predators, said some of the school trustees, whose children might actually need advice on who to talk to about these issues. It is entirely possible that these children might not even show their permission slips to their parents, reports Carrie Kaufman for KNPR-Nevada Public Radio.

On the other hand, parents can be so overwhelmed by papers from school that when an important slip like the one for sex education does get brought home, it could very well get lost in the shuffle. Teachers pointed out that when a student does not have a permission note for the class, they take it as an alert that these parents need to be contacted. The Clark County School District can use the omission to create more effective parental outreach.

Parents and educators agreed that technology may be the solution. Classroom learning could be combined with at home study so that parents and students would be learning the sex education curriculum together.

Craig Fiegener of KSNV-TV reports the board did approve an item which would add topics such as the dangers of sexting and sexual cyber-bullying to health education.