Sex-ed bill would cost taxpayers, undermine parents' teachings
By Nathaniel Kelley, Colorado Catholic Herald
A proposal to regulate human sexuality education in Colorado’s public schools on a broader scale would be detrimental in several ways, according to those opposing the measure.
House Bill 1081 would allow a more comprehensive sex-ed curriculum that includes a provision to create a federally funded grant program for schools to implement the new material.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the lobbyist for the state’s three Catholic dioceses, argues that the bill would compromise local school districts’ separate abilities to determine their own standards for human sexuality education. The bill would allow some flexibility on what is being taught, though, and there would still be the discussion of abstinence.
“The material and what is considered sex education is really not the kind of thing school districts should be deciding on. It should be left up to parents to handle such a sensitive topic,” said Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference.
She noted that the State Board of Education does not support the bill, and that it is simply “a bad piece of legislation,” that is unneeded, especially with the noticeable lack of parental input the bill would allow.
Colorado Democrats approved House Bill 1081 in early February. The division was clearly partisan, with all 37 Democrats favoring the proposal and all 28 Republicans voting it down. On March 7, the bill passed a line vote and now is headed to the full Senate for debate.
Currently, Colorado public schools are not required by law to offer sexual education but if a school district does decide to, it must include abstinence information as part of the course. Also, school districts are not required to discuss contraception, STDs or HIV/AIDS. The state does not regulate private schools, including parochial.
There are several reasons for mounting opposition to the proposed new law.
Perhaps the most debated issue comes with the bill’s automatic enrollment for students. Unless parents object and remove their children from the program, students in public schools will be mandated to take the course.
The Center for Relationship Education, a Denver-based nonprofit that focuses on fostering and creating stable and healthy marriages and relationships, also is against the bill.
Executive Director Tammy Borgias said the center does not support the measure for various reasons, the foremost being that there is already a lot of state legislation focusing on this topic.
“It doesn’t do anything new,” she said. “It also doesn’t enhance the standards.”
One of the biggest concerns of her organization is that the funding included with the bill would not be used for sexual risk avoidance; it could only be applied toward comprehensive sexual education. Borgias said a recent study shows eight of 10 Republican parents, and seven of 10 Democrat parents, want their children taught sexual risk avoidance.
“Current legislation and state health standards set by the Education Board are sufficient,” Borgias said, adding that the inclusion of HB 1081 would be a superfluous addition.
State Rep. Amy Stephens, R-El Paso County, said the bill, as is, “is very problematic.” She said that Colorado has been known for its broad variety of messages regarding sex education and thinks that the bill would remove that with its attempt to “institute a Planned Parenthood-only message” into the school systems. To her, abstinence no longer has a place in the cohesive curriculum, and she mentioned the syrup and jelly that has been used to illustrate lubricants in current curriculum. Additionally, she said, “1081 greatly, in terms of parents, takes a swipe at local control,” adding that she wants to see an option for parental control included.
She also notes that the effort to try to be more inclusive of other sexuality preferences could, in the end, be more exclusive because of the definitive kind of curriculum that would be put in place.
Rep. Chrisanta Duran, D-Denver, believes that the abstinence-only approach has failed, pointing out that the preferred sex education would include abstinence, but would not solely be based on it.
Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, argues that the established sex-ed curriculum doesn’t deal with the varied spectrum of sexuality. The bill mandates that the new program would include teachings on gay issues, as well as sexuality involving people with disabilities.
A 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that more than 47 percent of high school students admit to having sex, with 15 percent indicating they have had sex with four or more partners. For those who had sex within three months of the survey, three out of five used condoms and 23 percent used a birth control pill during their last encounter.