TOPEKA — Maggie Sigler and Elijah Williams advocated for comprehensive sex education Monday as a House bill was introduced to block students from attending human sexuality courses in public schools without parent or guardian permission.
The House Education Committee’s bill would result in an opt-in requirement for K-12 schools — a concept also debated by the 2014 Legislature.
Under the latest House measure, local school boards across the state would be ordered to adopt policy prohibiting distribution of sex education materials to any student who hadn’t acquired written consent.
The bill would compel Kansas school districts to provide instructional materials on human sexuality to any parent or guardian requesting the information.
Sigler, a second-year law student at Washburn University, said the House bill would not serve interests of students with challenging parent-child relationships not conducive to talk about sex. K-12 teachers are often positioned to share important information about health aspects of human sexuality, he said.
“Kids are going to miss out on the education they need,” Sigler said.
Williams, a student at Emporia State University, said the pending legislation threatened to build a barrier between young people and age-appropriate sex education.
“Sex education is better if we have the public education system teach it,” Williams said. “I think it’s sort of a common-sense decision.”
The duo were at the Capitol with students from several other college campuses involved with United for Reproductive and Gender Equity, formerly known as Choice USA. The organization promotes “sexual and reproductive justice” by training and mobilizing leadership around a youth-driven agenda.
Students participated from Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, ESU and Washburn.
In the 2014 session of the Legislature, bills were introduced in the House and Senate to implement the opt-in stipulation on human sexuality courses in the public school system. Both measures were introduced on behalf of Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, concerned about materials shown students.
During consideration of those measures, parents and legislators focused on a poster that had bee hanging in a Shawnee middle school to promote classroom discussion about sexually transmitted diseases and other elements of sexuality.
The opt-in approach would “put parents back in control of what their children are being taught,” Pilcher-Cook said at that time. Under current law, decisions regarding parental approval are left to local school districts.