Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2006

Board OKs opt-in for sex ed

Some members want to push for abstinence-only education requirement

March 16, 2006


— The Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday voted to require that students get their parents' permission before taking sex education.

The 6-4 vote by the board may make Kansas the first state in the nation to establish such a requirement.

And some on the board say they will go further and seek a requirement that sex education classes teach only that students should abstain from sex until marriage.

"I don't like the message that says we know you're going to have sex, so here's the safer way to do it," said board member Kathy Martin, a Republican from Clay Center.

The board's actions shocked sex education advocates.

"I'm frightened," said Debra Rukes, director of the Topeka YWCA teen pregnancy prevention program. "Our young people need this information."

Opt-in, opt-out

Requiring parental permission, called an opt-in process, will mean that many students who need sex education will not get it because their parents will forget, or are too busy or uninvolved to sign the necessary form, Rukes said. Teachers and administrators say getting permission slips, even for simple field trips, is often a nightmare.

Most school districts, including Lawrence, use the opt-out policy, which means if parents don't want their child to attend sex education class, they can sign a form that takes the student out of the class.

How they voted

Those voting to mandate the use of opt-in, which requires that parents return a consent form allowing a student to participate in the sex education class, were Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, John Bacon, R-Olathe, Kathy Martin, R-Clay Center, Connie Morris, R-St. Francis, Iris Van Meter, R-Thayer, and Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson. Those opposed to requiring opt-in were Sue Gamble, R-Shawnee, Carol Rupe, R-Wichita, Bill Wagnon, D-Topeka, and Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City, Kan.

The state board's statewide opt-in requirement may be the only one of its kind in the country, according to Darrel Lang, a human sexuality and health consultant with the State Department of Education.

The new opt-in requirement takes effect immediately, but there won't be any enforcement, said David Awbrey, a spokesman for the department.

"There is no consequence or penalty," Awbrey said. "In government, you just play by the rules. It's the honor system."


But more regulations may be on the horizon.

Martin said she wanted to "put a little meat in the standards" by requiring that schools teach only abstinence-based sex education. If they don't, the schools would not be accredited by the state under her proposal.

"That's unbelievable that they would think of narrowing the focus to abstention," Lawrence school board President Leonard Ortiz said.

"Kids are kids, and I think they need to be exposed to alternatives, because unfortunately not all kids abstain," Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he didn't know whether Lawrence would have to change its opt-out policy to opt-in.

He said he opposed opt-in.

"A lot of times, notices that are supposed to get home don't always make it to the parents, so the students will not have an opportunity to be in a sex education class, which in the long run will hurt them," he said.

But Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City and chairman of the state board said the opt-in proposal was "about empowering parents."

Board member John Bacon, R-Olathe, said opt-in would force schools to work with parents on sex education classes.

"I have reason to believe that parents are not adequately being informed," he said.

Local control rejected

The four-member minority urged the board to consider a policy that told districts to use either the opt-in or opt-out policy.

Board member Carol Rupe, R-Wichita, said that would allow districts to choose whichever policy they think best.

"With both methods, parents have to be informed," she said.

Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka, whose district includes Lawrence, said the opt-in requirement would anger local schools, which currently have the option of deciding what is best for their schools.

"This is just a wedge issue that is undermining the board. It's a misguided effort to try to impose a particular value system on local boards," Wagnon said.

Martin was the key vote. In September, the board deadlocked 5-5 over the opt-in, opt-out dispute, with Martin wanting to recommend both.

On Wednesday, however, she switched to opt-in after complaining that she heard from parents upset with what was being taught.

The 6-4 majority for opt-in was the same 6-4 majority that has prevailed on other controversial issues over the past year, including the adoption of science standards that criticize evolution and the hiring of Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, who previously worked as an advocate opposed to public schools.

Cynthia Akagi, a Kansas University professor who chaired a committee that put together state health standards, recommended the board endorse giving school districts the option of opt-in or opt-out.

She said the committee was "extremely disappointed" in the board's action.

"They totally disregarded what their constituents want," Akagi said.

Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer and president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the board's actions show the need for the Legislature to approve a bill that would codify expired regulations that allow the opt-out process and include teaching about abstinence and protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The measure, Senate Bill 508, has been approved by the Senate, but hasn't been considered yet by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.


moveforward 12 years, 2 months ago

To be fair, shouldn't we also offer spawn-ed classes as well. Or is this real science?

fletch 12 years, 2 months ago

We're going to have to reimplement the Homestead Act and pay people to move here in the near future.

Godot 12 years, 2 months ago

Don't go to Missouri. They are considering not funding birth control for women receiving state aid. Now, THAT is stupid.

Godot 12 years, 2 months ago

Christie, are your 150K salaries privately funded or government funded?

christie 12 years, 2 months ago

If you want to move forward put your car in (D)emocrat. If you want to move backwards put your car in (R)epublican.

I'm looking forward to the Republican Right telling me what religions I can be exposed to as well. I wonder, will they have an opt-in policy for that as well. How about an opt-in policy for History, Math, English Literature.

Frank Smith 12 years, 2 months ago

It's ironic that Ken Willard, one of the six member majority, already has three grandchildren born without the benefit of wedlock. Why does he think his harebrained "abstinence only" scheme could somehow work for other Kansas students?

christie 12 years, 2 months ago


That's right. I've had enough of the Fred Phelps attitudes and the religious right running this state into the ground.

My husband and I agree, it's time to get out while we can. We'll take our 150k salaries, and our taxes elsewhere thank you very much.

Michael Stanclift 12 years, 2 months ago

Ah, yet another reason for the rest of the country to think we're a bunch of looney toons.

Jillian Andrews 12 years, 2 months ago

Why not opt-in for Algebra? English? Biology?

" moronic as you think...."

onehotmomma 12 years, 2 months ago

I'm glad my child is graduating from high school this year, she won't be in the "Kansas Teen Pregnancy Rate Rises" stats.

With all the conservatives up in arms about our kids having sex ed - are they giving live performances in school or just covering the basics?

dirkleisure 12 years, 2 months ago

Marion -

I'm gonna get you a nice fruit basket.


benm024 12 years, 2 months ago

Hey Kathy Martin, when my kid gets knocked up and has an abortion because you outlawed sex education in school, Ill be sure to send the bill to you.

staff04 12 years, 2 months ago

Are we really surprised that the KSBOE has once again rejected sound science in the name of the crusade?

Jamesaust 12 years, 2 months ago

I was hoping for a more pointed headline - something that would appear to be more appropriate from 'The Onion':


nonimbyks 12 years, 2 months ago

I remember sex-ed in Nebraska to be a simple "attend or be stupid and laughed at by your peers" sort of thing. It was simply taught with no political agenda. All of this political sillyness about how to manage a childs education and how the parents don't pay attention to their education... There should be a basic parenting class before you're allowed to have children will come next. Or is it sex-ed in the public schools?

bettie 12 years, 2 months ago

Mercat, The statistics showing that abstinence-only doesn't work are everywhere. Well, they're everywhere except at the Heritage Foundation. I don't have time right now to post links to study after study after study showing that kids who receive abstinence-only sex ed are more likely than kids who receive comprehensive sex ed to contract STD's and have unwanted pregnancies. They're also more likely to engage in oral and anal sex.

I'm sure someone will say, "where are your statistics?" Take a minute and you'll find them. A good place to start is the congressional investigation that Henry Waxman initiated.

Godot 12 years, 2 months ago

Marion, you are pushing the wrong buttons.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

State BOE Race IMO all incumbents need replaced

Tim Cruz "D" (Garden City), and Sally Cauble "R" (Liberal), who are running against Connie Morris (St. Francis)(Incumbent)

Jana Shaver "R" (Independence), and Kent Runyan (Pittsburg) "D" who are running against Iris Van Meter(Incumbent)(has dropped out thus far)

Harry McDonald "R" and Don Weiss "D", who are running against John Bacon (KC/Lawrence area)(Incumbent)

and Donna Viola "R" (McPherson) who is running against Ken Willard(Incumbent)

Many likely receive campaign money from D.C. groups like Club for Growth that is connected to Sam Brownback. Much direction is coming from D.C. and the Christian Coalition/Falwell/Robertson. Bush and these groups are paying way too much attention to Kansas politics. Special interest campaign funding of elections needs to go bye bye.

Many west Lawrence voters can vote Nancy Boyda instead of Jim Ryun in November who also receives support from the Christian Coalition.

Mercat 12 years, 2 months ago

OK, let me get this straight, we can't do opt in because it's hard to get the parents involved? Whine whine. It seems to me to be part of the job of being a teacher is to keep parents involved. Heaven forbid that we should ask parents whether they want their children to be taught something. How scary is that?

Where are the statistics that show that abstenance only sex ed causes out of wedlock pregnancy or can the article and posters only throw personal insults at the school board? And if Merrill and friends what to throw the school board out, fine, vote but in the meantime, they are elected by a majority and doing their job. It's called Democracy.

bettie 12 years, 2 months ago

Also, for anyone that's about to post about parents' right to know what their kids are teaching and to control whether or not their kids receive certain information, remember this:

In an opt-out situation, parents receive a notice that their sex ed is coming and an invitation to come and review the materials. They can read the books, watch the tapes, ask questions, and generally find out what they need to know. Concerned parents already have an avenue to make this decision.

The parents who choose not to excercise that option are the same ones who probably won't sign the permission slips in an opt-in situation. Rather than assuming that if parents don't opt-out they don't object, we're now going to assume that if parents don't opt-in that they don't want their children in sex ed. That includes all the parents who are too busy or uninvolved in their kids lives to sign even field trip permission slips. Kids lose out here.

The bottom line is this: the government cannot mandate good parenting. The conservative members of the school board claim this as an objective. Doesn't sound very conservative to me...

pelliott 12 years, 2 months ago

They could change the name to No sex education, make two different classes, one NO sex ed, the other sex ed. Sex ed would be for people with bodies and futures and the need to understand them both. No sex ed could probably have special programs like phelps funeral procedures and how to get your religion past the constitution. I do believe NO Sex ed is too important to leave in the teachers' hands, it should be taught in Sunday school. I don't mind the opt in portion, the idea of passing past the parents because they don't care enough for their kids is a current remark a lot of educators are making, which I resent. When you disagree with what the school plans for your kid,you are literally told you wouldn't say that if you cared about your child. Bull.

YourItalianPrincess 12 years, 2 months ago

I asked my son if he was sexually active at age 16. My mom asked me at the age of 15. When my son told me yes.......don't think I didn't have a talk with both him and his girlfriend. He will be 18 in July, graduating this year from Free State and is headed for KU.

I simply told him the " Don't wreck your life story " . Basically= Your one job will turn into 2, maybe 3 so you can support the baby. You can forget about college for now because raising will give you no time for more schooling. You can forget hanging out with your friends also.

In so many words..........a pure guilt trip of fatherhood as a teenager. Your whole life changes after a baby is born. He sees how hard is gets for me at times being a single mom also.

Stay in school, go to college, do something with your life, then worry about marriage and family later. Don't think I don't remind him of this and check his little drawer next to his bed for condoms.........because as a mom I can do that.

onehotmomma 12 years, 2 months ago

YourItalianPrincess - did the same thing with my 18 year old daughter. Then touched on how not only being ready for sex physically, but emotionally as well.

I want to thank you for teaching your son what I taught my daughter. Together, unwanted pregnancy can be stopped. Pregnancy does not only affect females, it is not entirely their responsibility to provide birth control, nor is it the males.

I ask not only if she has condoms available, but if she remembers to take the birth control pill. (It's for acne, of course!)

ImpactWinter 12 years, 2 months ago

Seriously, can we fire this Board yet? Can we get start a recall process? I'm tired of conservative, head-in-the-dirt yokels (entirely different from normal conservatives, I think) who somehow find the power to tell our schools that 2+3=chair, and then legislating it to be true. Kansas will become a laughing stock of the nation. Our test scores are already leading us there. I think the boards salaries can be put to better use, heck, buring the cash would probably be more productive.

fletch 12 years, 2 months ago

I'm fine with conservatives on the state board. I think the board works best when both sides articulate their points a a middle ground an be reached. What I can't stand is that the liberals and moderates on the board keep suggesting reasonable compromises, and the conservaties start throwing around fire and brimstone.

Seriosuly, if this is all about community standards, let the community set the standards. Then we can have a nice long term study and look at the districts that have opt-in and opt-out and see what happens. See which school districts have higher test scores. See which school districts have lower teen pregnancy rates.

I really just hope the Lawrence school board takes a stand and still has an opt-out policy.

calijayhawk 12 years, 2 months ago

How is it that the people who are supposed to be in charge of our educational system are some of the most ignorant, uneducated people I've ever come across?

I like the Ostrich (head in the ground) mentality that this board has adopted on several issues, such as Evolution and now this. If we just don't talk about these things - maybe the issues will resolve themselves...

Isn't education supposed to be about challenging established theories and practices and not just digesting the dogmatic teachings of the religious right? Cue Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"


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