Topeka The Senate passed a bill Friday to ensure that school districts continue requiring sex education classes. That action came in spite of complaints that the bill made the state a substitute parent.
The 27-13 vote sent the bill to the House, but not before several legislators voiced opposition, including Sen. Kay O'Connor.
"The children belong to their parents; they don't belong to the government," said O'Connor, R-Olathe. "Parents should be in charge of this decision, not the state."
The bill, dubbed the "Abstinence Plus Education Act," requires school districts to provide sex education classes emphasizing the benefits of abstinence and teaching about sexually transmitted diseases.
"Sex education will encourage these kids to wait - finance before romance," said Sen. Don Betts, D-Wichita.
It also includes a section allowing students not to attend sex education classes if that is what the parents want. Students would be required to attend unless parents object.
O'Connor said that was backward from what it should be.
She tried to rewrite the bill to say students wouldn't be allowed to attend the classes unless they had parental permission. But the Senate shot down her proposal.
"The way the bill is written, it takes away parental control," O'Connor said. "The government has no right to take this decision away from parents."
Other complained the bill puts the Legislature in the business of doing what should be left to the State Board of Education. But supporters say the bill is needed because the board failed to act.
"This will undercut the State Board of Education," said Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville. "It treads on the duties of the state board. It's not our place to be activists and encroach on their duties."
The legislation was pushed by a group called Advocates for Abstinence Plus after the board last year allowed to lapse a regulation requiring all districts to offer sex education.
For almost two decades, the board required sex education classes, but as it revised rules for accrediting schools, it allowed the regulations to expire.
The coalition includes groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. It was concerned local boards would cancel sex education classes or go to abstinence-only courses.
The regulation wasn't renewed by the board because it deadlocked over requiring districts to get parents' permission before students could take such courses.