By Corinne Murdock
Wednesday, the House passed a bill requiring schools to have parents’ written consent before teaching Sex Education to students. Rather than having parents opt their children out of Sex Ed curriculum, this legislation requires schools to have parents opt in their children.
The bill passed along party lines, with only one Democratic representative abstaining their vote: State Representative Denise “Mitzi” Epstein (D-Tempe).
Summarily, the bill prohibits schools from providing Sex Ed to any students below the fifth grade – including education on AIDS and HIV. It would also require schools to make all Sex Ed curriculum available for parental review two weeks in advance, at minimum.
Under the bill, schools may or may not choose to implement a Sex Ed curriculum. If they do, the bill would simply require them to prioritize parental consent and communication, and those schools would have the option for state-level health or education officials to review the materials. It would also require that AIDS and HIV education be grade-level appropriate, promote abstinence, discourage drug use, and dispel myths of HIV transmission.
The legislation also requires that all committee meetings to develop, adopt, revise, or update Sex Ed courses be open to the public. Additionally, all materials must be made available and two public hearings must occur at least 60 days prior to any approval of materials.
“This bill is a huge step back from the progress Arizona made in 2019 when we removed barriers for LGBTQ+ representation in schools. This bill makes all HIV/AIDS instruction opt-in, labeling this important education as taboo & only available via a permission slip,” wrote the Arizona Senate Democrats.
This bill is a huge step back from the progress Arizona made in 2019 when we removed barriers for LGBTQ+ representation in schools. This bill makes all HIV/AIDS instruction opt-in, labeling this important education as taboo & only available via permission slip
— Arizona Senate Democrats (@AZSenateDems) April 14, 2021
Neither the House or Senate GOP or the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), published remarks on social media regarding the passage of this bill. Barto did tell reporters in an emailed statement that this served as a victory for parents’ rights.
“Parents should not have to worry about what schools are teaching their children about human sexuality,” stated Barto. “Too often parents learn after the fact that explicit or controversial materials were presented without their knowledge or consent.”
As AZ Free News reported previously, the Senate passed the bill early last month. Testimonies presented during committee hearings relayed a variety of issues. These included schools telling children that sex education classes are mandatory, refusing to share curriculum materials with parents, or circumventing parental notification on certain materials like “Genderbread.”
The legislation will now heads to Governor Doug Ducey. If signed into law as written, schools would have until December 15 of this year to comply.
The Arizona School Board Association condemned the bill’s passage as an effort to “undermine the authority of school boards. However, nothing in the bill prohibits school boards from approving curriculum. It merely sets a grade-level requirement and provides parents with an opportunity to exercise their authority over their own children.
ASBA opposes SB1456 as a tremendous overreach into the school board’s authority to establish curriculum it deems appropriate for the school community and urges Gov. Ducey to veto this bill. Read our full statement below. ⬇️⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/VCOCNX90Fh
— azsba (@AzSBA) April 15, 2021
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to email@example.com.