Bill would require parents to opt children into sexual discussions

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho ー When it comes to education and sexual content in schools, Idaho Falls Representative Barbara Ehardt says she wants to better empower parents ability to be informed and involved in their child’s education through a proposed bill.

House Bill 120, Rep. Ehardt told KID NewsRadio, will require schools to give parents an option to opt their child into classes and lessons involving sexual discussions rather than current Idaho code where parents have the option to opt out of such discussions.

“Quite simply, this is not changing content at all,” Representative Ehardt told KID NewsRadio. “It’s just changing the opt out to the opt in and putting more control and transparency back in the hands of our parents, where it originally resided and where it should reside.”

In previous years, lawmakers have faced bills dealing with opt-in and opt-out language, but specifically related to sex education. This bill is different, Rep. Ehardt said, in that it does not simply tackle sex education classes, courses or materials. The opt-in procedure would be required in all classes where sexual discussions might take place, like English and literature courses.

Read the proposed bill below

null

null

“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,” the proposed bill reads.

Simply put, any educator who wants to have a discussion where sexual content is involved, be it in a book, worksheet, discussion or guest lecturer, would need to notify parents and receive a response from parents about whether their child will participate or not.

Throughout her time as a lawmaker, Rep. Ehardt said she has heard several experiences and concerns from parents and realized Idaho’s code fails to provide parents with enough information or involvement in their child’s educational experience.

“Listening to a couple of parents who had had a really bad experience where they had done their due diligence to review curriculum, who had tried to have input, who reviewed the curriculum and had approved the curriculum only to find out other things were being taught,” Rep. Ehardt said. “I had a personal experience with a family member and a very good friend where the content in the literature was so graphic in it’s sexual nature, that it qualifies as obscene and pornographic, and that’s not right.”

Many popular books like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Forever by Judy Blume and A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, detail descriptive sexual scenes and are used in some Idaho schools. Under the proposed bill, educators would be required to inform parents, through a form or other method of communication, of the materials, curriculum or guest speaker used in class. Parents would then have to respond and give consent for their child to participate.

“We want to continue to empower parents to be involved in some of this literature and the sexual content that is becoming more and more graphic,” Rep. Ehardt said.

If the bill passes, Idaho would become one of the few states in the nation with an opt in policy. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Utah, Nevada, North Carolina and Mississippi have strict opt in policies. As of 2018, 10 states don’t have any policies regarding opt in or opt out.