Topeka The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday approved what supporters called "abstinence plus" sex education guidelines to reverse another policy by the former conservative-controlled board.
Earlier this year, the new moderate-controlled board approved pro-evolution science standards to replace ones adopted by conservatives that had questioned evolution.
"It's a matter of reflecting the current board's views about how these things ought to be conducted," said Board Chairman Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka whose district includes Lawrence. The 2006 election results gave moderates the upper hand on the 10-member board.
In dispute Tuesday were statewide health standards that schools use for sex education. The standards are optional guidelines for districts.
In a 6-3 vote, the board endorsed health standards that teach against premarital sex but provide information on birth control and safe sex. They will replace standards that emphasized abstinence until marriage.
Board member Kathy Martin, a conservative Republican from Clay Center, spoke against the new standards.
"Abstinence until marriage is the best message we can give to the students," Martin said. She said schools should emphasize "self-control over birth control."
Martin was joined by board members John Bacon, R-Olathe, and Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson.
Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, was absent due to health reasons.
Voting for the new standards were Sally Cauble, R-Liberal; Sue Gamble, R-Shawnee; Carol Rupe, R-Wichita; Jana Shaver, R-Independence; Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City, and Wagnon.
Wagnon described the new standards as more comprehensive.
"It also includes a whole lot of other information about health safety and other kinds of contraception, which unfortunately I think too many people believe encourages promiscuity, which I don't believe," he said.
Another standards-related issue involved the process of taking sex education classes.
The conservative board's standards recommended an opt-in approach, in which parents would have to register their children if they wanted them to take sex education class.
Health experts had recommended the opt-out approach, where parents who don't want their children to participate in sex education class could have them pulled out.
Requiring parents to "opt-in" would have reduced the number of students in sex education classes because many students wouldn't ask their parents for permission and some parents might be inattentive to their children's school needs, the health experts said.
The new standards include "model" letters so districts can use either the opt-in or opt-out process.
Martin said because each school district can determine its health curriculum, local residents should be involved in the decision on how to approach sex education.
"It really is up to parents to let their local districts know what kind of program they would like to see," she said.