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Idaho House passes opt in requirement for sex education

March 5, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers in the Idaho House have passed legislation that would require parents to opt in two weeks in advance before their kids can receive some sex education lessons in school.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, passed 56-12 on a party-line vote Friday, and now goes to the Senate. If enacted, it would change the existing state law, which allows parents to opt out if they don’t want their child getting sex education lessons in school.

Instead, parents who want their child to take part would have to give written permission two weeks before any lesson, discussion or reading assignment that involves human sexuality or topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation.

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Ehardt said her bill doesn’t change curriculum but encourages parental involvement in education decisions.

“I’m just asking you to make sure that our parents are involved,” she told her fellow representatives.

Opponents said the legislation would be challenging for teachers and parents, resulting in some kids missing out on sex education entirely because their parents miss the opportunity to sign permission slips two weeks before each lesson that touches in some way on human sexuality.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a permission slip crumpled in a ball in the bottom of my kids’ backpack, soaked in yogurt,” Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said. “This is going to be shutting a lot of kids out whose parents have no objection whatsoever just because we’re requiring so many logistical hurdles.”

Rep. John McCrostie, a Democrat from Boise and Idaho’s first openly gay male legislator, said the bill could stymie other lessons, such as those involving current events.

“Are we supposed to wait two weeks to discuss current events just become someone in the public eye is LGBT?” McCrostie asked. “Talking about sexual orientation doesn’t make anyone gay. Talking about gender identity doesn’t make anyone transgender. And talking about sex doesn’t make anyone pregnant.”

Rep. Tammy Nichols, a Republican from Middleton, argued in favor of the bill, which she said would help protect, “the fundamental right of parents to be able to make the best choice for their children in regards to this subject.”