Abstinence-based plan for sex education is returning

? Having joined a small number of states that require parental permission before allowing students to take sex education, the State Board of Education now is considering tightening restrictions on the subject even further.

The board today will decide whether to require every school district use “abstinence-until-marriage” sex education.

Several advocates for a more comprehensive approach to sex education asked the board to reject the proposal.

Lois Culver, a retired teacher from Lenexa, said “abstinence-until-marriage” programs were dangerous.

“They do not discuss all the lifesaving information young people need to make responsible decisions,” she said.

James Hasselle, a retired psychologist from Lawrence, agreed, saying young people need as much factual information as they can get.

“A thoughtful, intelligent program of sex education benefits the youth and all of Kansas,” Hasselle said.

A number of students and parents also urged the board to reject abstinence until marriage and require a comprehensive, age-appropriate human sexuality curriculum.

In March, the board on a 6-4 vote went against the advice of health care professionals by requiring that school districts receive parental permission for students to participate in sexual education classes. This so-called “opt-in” policy will mean some students will not benefit from the class simply because their parents are inattentive to school needs, the health care experts said.

Most states and school districts, including Lawrence, have an opt-out policy in which parents can sign a form if they want their children removed from sex education class. Despite the board’s opt-in requirement, Lawrence school officials said they won’t change their local policy.

The state board also briefly considered requiring “abstinence only” sex education. But that idea died.

This new proposal was seen by some members who had wanted “abstinence only” as a compromise.

The proposed policy would require that each district teach that abstinence until marriage is the best way to avoid pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The policy would also include information on STDs, especially HIV and AIDS in addition to “factual information regarding contraception and disease prevention.”

Board member John Bacon, a Republican from Olathe, said the proposal handles the issue “quite adequately.”

“I’m not sure what the beef is,” Bacon said.

But several advocates of sex education said the more information given young people, the better they will be able to make decisions on whether to engage in sexual activity.