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Proposed legislation would have parents opt-in children for education on human sexuality

Education

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BOISE — A proposed bill would require parents to opt-in for education on human sexuality in schools.

Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, introduced House Bill 249 on Wednesday during a House Education Committee meeting. The bill focuses on human sexuality, matching similar bills that failed committees in 2019 and 2020.

“The intent of this bill (is) so that we can be very very clear — this is about consent, not content,” Ehardt told the committee. “This is about parental rights … it is our parent’s right to be involved and have an explicit say in their (children’s) education.”

Idaho law already allows parents to opt their children out of any form of sexual education. However, this legislation would make it so parents have to give permission for certain topics. Specifically, parents would have to opt-in their kids for topics like gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure or sexual intimacy.

“If we are just teaching the physiology and anatomy of sex and the reproductive system we’re all fine with that,” Ehardt told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s when we get into the norms and behaviors and some of these things that are being pushed through the comprehensive sex education … we just want our parents to know and be involved.”

When looking at the bill in past years, there were concerns about how legislators would define sexuality. Both nationally and at the state level, there were no established definitions. With this bill, lawmakers turned to the World Health Organization, which defines human sexuality with terms like gender identity, sexual intimacy and eroticism.

Teachers would not have to get consent for sex education classes strictly covering the anatomy and physiology of human reproduction. Parents would still be able to opt-out their kids from these basic topics if the bill passed.

To opt-in their children for human sexuality lessons, a parent or legal guardian would have to file a written permission slip with the school district board of trustees. The school board would be responsible for providing the forms two weeks before any sexuality instruction.

Ehardt said the purpose of this proactive approach is to keep parents in the know so they don’t hear about it after the fact.

If the bill passed, Idaho would join a handful of other states that have some form of law that requires parental consent before a student can participate in sexual education. This differs from most states that rely on the opt-out method of sexual education.

“With what we know is being taught and promoted nationally we know what’s coming to Idaho,” Ehardt said. “It’s one of the reasons we wanted to change the narrative from sex ed to sexuality in education.”

The entire House education committee voted yes to have Monday’s hearing on House Bill 249. The legislation will still need to pass the committee before heading to the House floor for a full vote.

“I believe that most parents will engage in this,” Ehardt said. “When they know some of these things that they might not be completely in agreeance with, but they know others are hearing it … it gives a parent that opportunity to have that discussion with their kids at home.”

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