by Shane Vander Hart
Last Wednesday, the Idaho House of Representatives passed HB 120, a bill that requires parental opt-in for sex education, by a party-line 56 to 14 vote. It now heads to the Republican-controlled Idaho Senate.
The bill is sponsored by State Representative Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) and co-sponsored by 23 Republican lawmakers. It reads, “Any parent or legal guardian who wishes to have his child participate in any planned instruction in sex education or any instruction or presentation regarding sexuality shall file written permission with the school district board of trustees.”
In addition, the bill specifies that schools must provide proper permission forms to parents two weeks before the class or presentation. Schools are also required to inform parents about the upcoming instruction or presentation with a brief description of what will be taught.
The bill also states that parents are allowed to review any material related to the instruction or presentation.
Currently, Idaho is one of 34 states to allow parents to opt students out of sex education. Only four states — Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Utah — require an opt-in for parents. Indiana and Arizona allow for schools to adopt an opt-out or opt-in policy. Thirty-two states require that schools make material for sex education classes or presentation available to parents for review.
The bill also states that guest speakers must comply with the sex education provisions in the Idaho Code.
Idaho law defines sex education as “the study of the anatomy and the physiology of human reproduction.”
The law also states that sex education programs should “supplement the work in the home and the church in giving youth the scientific, physiological information for understanding sex and its relation to the miracle of life, including knowledge of the power of the sex drive and the necessity of controlling that drive by self-discipline.”
Ehardt told the Associated Press that guest educators often go beyond the school’s curriculum to discuss things like anal and oral sex, where they can get birth control without parental permission, and downplay abstinence.
“Parents have no say, no understanding of that which is being presented,” she said. “Parents have the right to direct and educate their children.”
Opt-out forms often slip through the cracks buried among other information a school provides or sends home with students. Parents can proactively decide whether or not their student will participate in sex education programs in school instead of allowing students to participate by default if they miss opting out.