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College students lobby against sex education bills

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, at 7:28 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, at 7:37 p.m.

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A pair of bills in the Legislature would require students in Kansas to obtain parental signatures before they could receive sex education in school.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, introduced both House Bill 2620 and Senate Bill 376. The House bill will have a hearing before the Education Committee at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday. The companion Senate bill has no hearings scheduled yet, Pilcher-Cook said.

The legislation stems from a controversy in the Shawnee Mission School District in which a poster in a classroom listed sexual acts as part of the sex education curriculum, Pilcher-Cook said.

“Some of the sexual acts on that list were highly objectionable,” Pilcher-Cook said. She did not say what the acts were but that they were listed along with other less offensive actions, such as “hand-holding and cuddling.” A parent brought it to the attention of Pilcher-Cook, who drafted the bills in response.

Shawnee Mission School District officials could not be reached for comment on the Presidents Day holiday. Pilcher-Cook praised the district’s superintendent for having the poster removed.

Pilcher-Cook’s bill, however, deals with more than just posters.

It states that “No board of education of any unified school district shall provide instruction on health and human sexuality to a student, unless written consent has been received from a parent or legal guardian.”

College students from around the state came to the Capitol to lobby against the bills on Monday as part of a coordinated effort organized by Choice USA, a pro-choice organization.

Students can currently choose to opt out of sex education, said Sydney Fish, a Wichita State University student, but Pilcher-Cook’s bill flips that equation on its head.

“Basing an entire bill that would control every district in the state on one incident – we’re basically looking at going from an opt-out system of sex education, which is organized by districts, to an opt-in,” Fish said.

Fish said this would make it more difficult for students to get information on reproductive health. She and other university students thought decisions on sex education curriculum should be made by local school boards rather than the Legislature.

Rachel Tuck, another WSU student, said that she would have felt too awkward to approach her parents for permission to attend sex education in high school.

“I had sex ed in high school, and it helped me a lot. Talking about sex with my parents was a topic I was never really comfortable with,” Tuck said. “So being able to have it in school gave me the comfortable side of being able to talk with educators who knew about the subject … so I could form my judgments based on what would be healthiest for myself.

“I was with my peers who had the same questions that I had,” Tuck said.

Paul Brink, also a WSU student, agreed.

“Not everybody knows what questions to ask, either … and your parents might not know the answers,” he said.

Pilcher-Cook said that the college students concerned about the bills should attend the Tuesday hearing and that they should “keep an open mind.”

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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