Topeka Free State High School students Laura Kelly and Ashleigh Coleman visited the Capitol on Thursday to support legislation that would emphasize the benefits of abstinence and provide information about preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
"We feel it is important for students to have factual information about sex," said Kelly, a senior. "We want a program based on scientific facts."
Coleman agreed. "Many people don't seek out the truth," she said. "People need to have medically accurate information."
The two students were part of a coalition made up of education, health, religious and civic groups supporting the Abstinence Plus Education Act that was filed in the Legislature.
The bill would require schools to provide age-appropriate human sexuality programs taught by trained instructors.
The program would emphasize sexual abstinence but also inform students about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
To reduce teenage pregnancy and the spread of STDs "we must make sex education a long-term part of our goal," said Angie Blair, a Lawrence school nurse.
"Kids want to know and need to know how to protect themselves," she said.
The coalition also said the state needed the opt-out policy, which gives parents the option of removing their children from sex education classes.
Some members of the Kansas State Board of Education have supported what is called an opt-in policy, which would require a permission slip from parents for the student to take sex education.
But experts on sex education say opt-in would result in fewer students getting information they need simply because their parents were too busy to sign a permission slip.
The hang-up over opt-out versus opt-in has bottled up sex education standards at the state education board for several months.
This new bill, supporters said, would reinstate guidelines on comprehensive sex education on a statewide level.
Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, however, said she would prefer the opt-in method. "I think parents need to be a little more involved," she said.
She said the proposed bill "would be a powerless piece of legislation" if the education board ever adopts the sex education standards before it.
But coalition members, which include the Douglas County AIDS Project and Kansas University Students for Reproductive Choice, said the legislation was needed to ensure that students get accurate information about sex.
"Sex education is not something to be ashamed of," said Laura Adams, a parent form Fairway. "It shows our children that we value their health, their safety and their future."