TOPEKA, Kansas — Supporters of Kansas legislation requiring parental consent for students to receive sex education in public schools said Tuesday that the policy change would force parents to become more active participants in the subject matter.
The bill heard by the House Education Committee would make the consent requirement a statewide policy. Currently, each district decides whether parents must agree to have their children take sex education.
"The overriding objective of this legislation is to ensure that parents have the ability to view sex education material in a manner that is appropriate to them," said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican and sponsor of the legislation.
Tom Krebs, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said the organization had a policy statement that encouraged districts to make sex education an opt-out decision by parents. He said association members would change that if the bill passed. He also suggested voters could always elect new members of their local boards to bring about a policy change.
The bill was drafted in response to a January incident in Johnson County's Shawnee Mission district in which a suggestive poster used in sex education classes was put on a classroom door in view of students not authorized by their parents to receive sex education.
Mark Ellis, parent of an eighth-grader, said his daughter took a photo of the poster and brought it home to show him. Ellis has always signed a slip opting his daughter out of sex education instruction.
"I wanted to believe it was a prank," Ellis said.
He spoke with district officials and learned the school board had authorized spending money to use a program called "Making a Difference" to teach sex education in the schools. The poster was a supplemental material used in the instruction. Ellis said the poster was removed after he spoke to district officials.
Ellis said while he may be "a little old fashioned" when it came to discussing sex education with his daughter, he felt it was his responsibility and not one he wanted to leave to educators.
Legislators said they support parents having the say on sexuality and morals and wanted to make a change.
"Some issues are important to mandate and take statewide. This is one of them," said Rep John Bradford, a Lansing Republican.