Controversy over a poster called “How do people express their sexual feelings” has paved the way for Kansas Legislature to debate sex education. The poster listed words expressing intimate and sexual acts.
Republican Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook has sponsored a bill requiring parents to consent before their children can take sex education classes. If the parents do not opt in, children do not take the class. The House Education Committee could move forward with the measure within a week.
Mark Ellis, parent at Hocker Grove Middle School brought his concerns over the poster to Shawnee Mission School District Officials. He believes this sort of thing should only be taught at home and called the poster, “concerning”.
The current option in the school district is for parents to “opt out”, which is the opposite of what, Pilcher-Cook is proposing. State law says each school board needs to decide whether parents opt in or opt out of sex education, and it does not require the class for high school graduation.
According to Brad Cooper of the Kansas City Star, one school district, DeSoto, has already chosen the opt in policy, and district spokesman Alvie Carter said it leaves the ultimate decision up to the parents, “We hear a lot about parent choice and we decided this was an opportunity to be transparent about the information being presented to students.”
Pilcher-Cook’s bill also requires school boards to provide all instructional material on health and human sexuality to any parent who wants to see it before deciding whether their kids should take the course.
“We need to protect children from hurtful material in schools,” said Pilcher-Cook. “We need to protect the rights of parents to shield and protect their children from harmful material.”
Lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association Mark Dessetti, says that some students who need comprehensive sexuality education will miss the chance for instruction because parents could be too busy to sign a paper needed for the class.
There is little information state wide about how many families do not opt in for the sex education class. DeSoto school district says they had one family not opt in, and a Blue Valley school district spokeswoman said the number was so low that they do not track.
Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway said it was unfortunate that an isolated incident from Johnson County was being used to drive state policy, but she understands the concerns of parents.
Her concern is that the bill could require parents to opt in to a health class that may not address sexuality. Rep. John Bradford, a member of the education committee, says that sex education should be taught at home and should require parental consent if it is taught at school, stating an “opt in” policy could lead to lost paperwork or students ending up in a class that is not approved by parents.