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.
Both Arizona House and Senate Democrats tweeted against the passage of the bill.
“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
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
A bill further regulating K-12 sex education courses moved closer to full passage on Wednesday. In a 6-4 party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee determined that parents should have a greater say in what their kids learn when it comes to sex education.
The bill would require school boards to give parents advance notice of the education, acquire signed and written parental consent, as well as inform parents about their rights to opt into the course and review the materials and activities.
Currently, parents must opt their child out of the instruction. And, gender identity and gender expression weren’t included as topics requiring parental consent – just sexuality.
The bill would also limit schools from offering sex education, AIDS, and HIV instruction until students are in the fifth grade.
If passed, schools would have until December 15 of this year to change their courses to comply with the new law.
In the event that schools are modifying or drafting sex education courses thereafter, all corresponding committee meetings and proposed curriculum must be made public. The community would have 60 days and at least two public hearings to weigh in on the proposed curriculum.
The bill specified that schools aren’t required to offer sex education instruction.
For charter schools that do wish to teach about AIDS or HIV, they must ensure that the curriculum will be grade-level appropriate, medically accurate, promoting abstinence, discouraging drug use, adn dispelling myths about transmission. These schools would also be granted the ability to have the Arizona Department of Health Services or Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to review the materials.
Only four committee members voted against the bill: César Chávez (D-Phoenix), Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe), Diego Rodriguez (D-Phoenix), and Domingo Degrazia (D-Tucson).
Committee members Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley), Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria), Russell Bowers (R-Mesa), and Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott Valley) voted in favor of it.
Senate Education testimonies from those urging passage of the bill asserted that parental rights are being violated daily, and that parents know what’s best for their children. They cited examples of schools telling parents and children that sex education classes are mandatory, refusing to share curriculum materials with parents, and circumventing parental notification on the implementation of new curriculum like “Genderbread.”
The ACLU argued that the bill violates the Equal Protection Clause, saying that LGBTQ students’ rights would be threatened. Other teachers testifying concurred.
During the final vote in the Senate, Democratic opposed empowering parents to choose whether their children received exposure to certain sex education courses.
Juan Mendez (D-) likened the negative commentary around parents’ lack of knowledge on the materials within school sex education courses as “scare tactics.”
“[S]tudents are going to hear and learn all about this stuff whether or not parents want them to. So, do you want it to happen alone on the internet? Or, in the safe embrace of a school setting with comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education?” asserted Mendez. “We should be providing youth with opportunities to increase their knowledge, explore values, and develop positive skills. Any of that would do so much to mitigate interpersonal violence and dating violence.”
State Senator Sally Ann Gonzalez (D-) accused the bill of targeting LGBTQ students, and limiting teachers and administrators from creating safe, inclusive environments. She went so far as to claim it could violate Title X and the Constitution, therefore opening up the state to legal battles.
“This bill is a sweeping bill that impacts the ability of teachers to speak about a wide range of issues impacting all students,” stated Gonzalez. “Everyone has a gender identity and a sexual orientation, so this bill would – could inhibit the profession of everyone’s experience of gender and romantic relationships in the world.”
State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai (D-) dismissed the examples provided by XX as an exception to the rule – a few, one-off incidents of the very worst types of education presented to students, not the norm.
The Senate passed the bill in a close, party-line vote on March 3.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.