Conservatives propose revised rules on sex education in crackdown on LGBTQ

Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed the ban on all HIV / AIDS education that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle” while facing a lawsuit, they approved overhaul of the laws on HIV / AIDS. state sex education to make it one of the strictest in the country when it comes to teaching about LGBTQ issues.

The measure pushed by a powerful social-conservative group is touted as a parental rights issue and would require schools to obtain parental permission for discussions about gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV / AIDS in class. sex education.

Schools would also need parents to approve of their children by learning about historical events involving sexual orientation, such as a discussion of the modern gay rights movement that arose from the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City.

The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled House in an online vote on Wednesday, with Democrats saying it would harm LGBTQ children. He has already passed the Senate and now goes to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Arizona is one of several Republican-led states where lawmakers are considering similar changes to sex education. The move to give parents more control over what their children can learn about LGBTQ issues is new and part of other efforts to push back social change, including legislation in some states banning athletes transgender people to compete in school teams of their identified gender, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group that follows such legislation.

Arizona is one of five states that already require parental permission before a child can attend sex education classes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The new proposal would essentially require a double opt-in for HIV / AIDS education that deals with sexual orientation or gender identity. Additional permission would be required for LGBTQ chats in any other classroom.

Idaho law also requires notifications and opt-ins, including for discussion of sexual orientation outside of sex education classes. It has passed the House and is awaiting a decision from the Senate.

Lawmakers in Tennessee and Missouri are considering measures that would require parents to be informed before receiving instructions about sexual orientation or gender identity, but exclude historical references.

In Montana, the legislature last week passed a bill originally intended to require parents to adhere to sex education, but was amended after the rejection of educational groups. He now allows parents to take their children out of sex education and is awaiting action from Republican Governor Greg Gianforte.

Proponents of comprehensive sexuality education say such legislation can have far-reaching negative effects under the guise of parental rights by limiting the evidence-based education young people need to stay safe.


“They continually call for the need to revisit the curriculum – and any sex education curriculum is already under review,” said Alison Macklin, senior policy adviser at the progressive group SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. “These standards are therefore decided by experts who are educators. And parents always have the opportunity to review the program.”

The leader of the group backing the Arizona proposal, the Center for Arizona Policy, said it was about making sure parents are in control of what their children learn.

“The purpose of Senate Bill 1456 is to ensure parental rights, to ensure that parents have access to educational materials, that parents have the opportunity to enroll their child in courses dealing with human sexuality,” said said Cathi Herrod, president of the group. .

She said the same was true whether it was sex education or a discussion of the ancient Greeks, where homosexuality was common.

FILE - In this file photo from Feb. 18, 2021, state officials gather on Capitol Hill in Phoenix.  (AP Photo / Matt York, file)

FILE – In this file photo from Feb. 18, 2021, state officials gather on Capitol Hill in Phoenix. (AP Photo / Matt York, file)

“This does not prevent these topics from being discussed, but again, when we talk about sex education, when we talk about parental notification, parents deserve the opportunity to make this decision by opting for the discussion of their students. in class, ”Herrod said.

Macklin called the proposals an effort to strengthen barriers.

“In a way, it’s a subliminal way of trying to push through anti-gay legislation, saying you can’t talk about it or talk about it in schools,” she said. “We would never make this kind of legislation around other historical movements.”

Opponents of the Arizona law cited the repealed 1991 HIV / AIDS education law as a motivation for the new proposal. LGBTQ groups took legal action almost 30 years later.

The 2019 repeal came after the school’s top official and state attorney general refused to defend Arizona against the lawsuit alleging unconstitutional discrimination and restricted educational opportunities for students LGBTQ.

Democrats warned during the House debate on Wednesday that the new proposal had similar constitutional problems.

The legislation has caught the attention of a group of students who say sex education in Arizona is already overdue and the measure takes it further away from what young people need to know.

Lee Chiffelle, an astrophysics student at Arizona State University, said she began pushing for changes in sex education policies as a high school student frustrated by the lack of evidence-based and honest education. She said she learned the most important lessons from her mother, but not all young people can count on their parents.


“I was lucky, but a lot of my friends weren’t so lucky,” Chiffelle said. “A lot of parents seem to think that if you don’t talk about it, teens won’t have sex, which is certainly not true.”

Arizona’s measure would ban schools from providing sex education before grade five, require 60 days’ notice for curriculum changes, and require public meetings on those revisions, even those required under the new law.

Chiffelle said she was concerned about everything from parents failing to return release slips to the sex education ban by fifth grade, which focuses on ‘good touch-bad touch’ skills and how to know if they are being abused and how to get help.

The most dangerous aspect of the new proposal, she said, is to favor traditional gender roles and limit discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We need this education to promote an inclusive, welcoming environment, because LGBTQ-plus teens have incredibly high suicide rates,” Chiffelle said. “But when they are placed in an environment that accepts them and is inclusive to them, those suicide rates drop drastically.”

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