Local superintendents weigh in on state sex ed bill that would add consent, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum
A new comprehensive sex education bill in the state legislature would require public schools receiving state funding to teach consent, gender identity and sexual orientation and would prohibit abstinence-only education and teaching any religious values.
The bill, HB1032, passed the Colorado House of Representatives last week and is on the schedule for the Colorado Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday afternoon. Sponsored by Grand County’s representative, KC Becker, the bill mandates certain topics be covered in sex education for it to be considered comprehensive.
Currently, neither East nor West Grand School Districts teach abstinence-only sex education and neither school district includes any religious values in its curriculum. For the most part, the bill would not drastically change sex education at East Grand School District, according to Superintendent Frank Reeves. The biggest change, however, would be explicitly including gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as making all of the curriculum language inclusive.
“I think the one thing we would need to be sure to do is make sure that we’re recognizing the LGBTQ community,” Reeves said.
LGBTQ curriculum would also have to be added to sex education at West Grand schools, if the bill becomes law, which teaches sex education in middle school health classes, as well as in the high school health class elective.
“That’s not really a piece in that curriculum right now, so that would be something that we would probably have to make some adjustments to,” West Grand Superintendent Darrin Peppard said.
It is unlikely the bill would affect the curriculum at Indian Peaks Charter School and it wouldn’t impact the Winter Park Christian School, which is private.
The bill also makes $1 million available for schools to update their curriculum, but priority would be given to schools in rural districts that currently do not have a sex education program.
Since the bill would likely not greatly change the current sex education curriculum, neither of the superintendents expects the bill to be costly for the districts. However, it could impact the number of families participating.
Parents can opt out of any sex education for any reason at both East and West Grand School Districts. Reeves and Peppard said currently, the majority of families do not opt out.
Reeves credits the school district’s medically accurate and age-appropriate curriculum for the high participation. He worries if the bill passes that it might cause more families to opt out of sex education.
“If it’s going to cause more people to opt out then is that really benefiting the purpose of it,” he said. “I’m not fond of us making laws where we already have laws.”
At East Grand schools, sex education starts in fifth grade with discussions about puberty and hygiene. Then, in middle school, reproduction and genetics are taught in science classes. Contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, decision making and abstinence are introduced to students in eighth-grade health.
Sex education continues in high school with discussions on personal responsibilities, consent and consequences in physical education classes and freshman seminars. Reeves explained the school district partners with local medical professionals, the Pregnancy Resource Center in Granby and other resources to teach these topics.
“It’s our philosophy now that we’re trying to give kids the tools to make the best decisions possible and omission is not a tool,” Reeves said.
West Grand also takes advantage of community resources, as well as the health teachers, to teach the topics to its middle and high schoolers.
“The board does believe that a comprehensive health education program is important,” Peppard said.
He explained that while the current sex education curriculum at West Grand is less comprehensive than what the new bill proposed, the district was already preparing for a change in state health curriculum standards in 2020.
“My feelings right now are kind of wait and see,” Peppard indicated.
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