Archive for Tuesday, March 7, 2006

State board to reconsider sex education policy

Debate centers on opt-in, opt-out alternatives; last vote in September ended in 5-5 deadlock

March 7, 2006


The State Board of Education will take up sex education again, six months after it deadlocked on the issue.

The board is scheduled to vote on health standards that include sex education at its meeting March 15.

"We need to get something approved," board Chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, said Monday.

Abrams said he didn't know if any board members had changed their minds since a 5-5 vote in September. "I don't know how it will play out," he said.

The major dispute over the sex education standards was whether to recommend that local school districts have parents opt-in their children to sex ed classes or opt-out.

Currently, almost all school districts, including Lawrence, have an opt-out policy. That means if a parent or guardian doesn't want their child to take sex ed, they sign a note requesting the student be taken out of the class.

But several board members want an opt-in policy, meaning parents would have to give the school permission before their child could participate in sex ed.

Experts, including Cynthia Akagi, a Kansas University professor who was chairwoman of a committee that composed the health standards, recommend the opt-out policy or a policy that allows schools either option.

Akagi said opt-out allowed parents who really didn't want their children participating in sex ed to remove their children. Under the opt-in process, many children will fail to get permission from their parents simply because their parents are neglectful, forgetful or too busy to sign a permission slip. These children will fail to get important information about sex, she said.

"I just hope that they (board members) listen to their constituents who clearly say we want an opt-in and opt-out option," Akagi said.

With the board deadlocked on the issue, the Legislature has jumped into the debate. Last month, the Senate approved a bill that installs the opt-out process for sex education.

If the board does approve health standards, they will only be advisory. But Akagi said she believed if the board recommended that local districts employ only the opt-in process, then some would do so because it would have the stamp of approval from the state board.

Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka, whose district includes Lawrence, said he supported Akagi's position.

"They must think they have six votes" for Abrams to put it on the agenda, Wagnon said.

On several major issues, the board has split 6-4, but on the health standards, board member Kathy Martin, R-Clay Center, bolted from the usual six-member majority.

At the time, Martin said she wanted to maintain local school district control over the decision, and she noted the opt-in proposal could be a problem for teachers trying to round up the permission slips. She could not be reached for comment on Monday.


b_asinbeer 12 years ago

I'm now more than ever convinced that our BOE is the most underqualified in the history of BOE's in the US.

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