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April 25, 2015

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Sex education and home rule

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Planned Parenthood has said repeatedly that Nevada’s sex education curriculum is outdated and failing our students.

Not true. On either count.

Clark County School District updated its sex ed curriculum as recently as January, less than four months ago. There was not a single speaker on the agenda item. There was no public outcry that the curriculum is failing our children. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been one in the past 20 years.

The process for making changes to this robust program is rigorous and proactive in transparency and accountability. Washoe County School District officials testified before the Assembly Committee on Education at the bill’s first hearing that the only change they would need to make, should the bill pass, was to eliminate the opt-in process for parents.

The committee that advises the Clark County School Board on sex education posts its meetings, takes public comment, reports to the board in an open meeting and makes all of its materials available for public review. Every final review and every school board decision reflects the values of our community and what we feel is appropriate for our children.

Assembly Bill 230, written by Planned Parenthood — by its own admission — and proposed by a legislator who has been supported by the group, is a blatant attempt to craft a social movement in the guise of an educational campaign. The bill is a contradiction of itself, requiring medically accurate and sound scientific facts and at the same time requiring “gender exploration or expression,” which are issues born of social movements not of science.

Parental involvement is nixed in the new legislation. With this bill, rather than notify parents and have them opt their students into the program as in the past, parents would have the burden of determining what the school was doing and formally opting out of participation. Schools would only have to provide minimal notice tucked in the mass of paperwork students bring home at the beginning of the school year. The new bill requires the family to know what the school is teaching and when it will be taught. They might also want to know who will teach the class, as the teacher may not be a licensed district employee.

Additionally, parents are not considered a resource to the child, and there is no mention of educating parents and families on new sexually transmitted diseases and infections, or options for birth control, abortions or the virtues of abstinence. There is no work proposed to better equip parents to fill the role of primary teacher and responsible adult in the life of a youth. In fact, Planned Parenthood has been known to refer to parents as ignorant roadblocks who do more to prevent education than promote it.

It’s unclear what this bill would cost because we cannot calculate the legal fees Nevada will incur as families are tempted to sue local districts and the state for the ridiculously poor language of the bill, if not its content. At best, it is an ill-defined, open-ended approach to an “anything goes” attitude about issues of sexual responsibility.

Clark County and Washoe County educate more than 88 percent of the children in our state. They both have well-developed programs in sex education that span the K-12 curriculum. These programs are updated on a regular basis. They include medical and biological facts, cover choices associated with sex (preventive measures that include abstinence and birth control), have a thorough review of sexually transmitted diseases and infections and have the responsibilities of family life.

Statistics show that teen pregnancy in Nevada is going down, as well as abortion rates. Remember that many of the statistics used by those who want to indoctrinate our children include age groups that are well out of high school and don’t take into consideration whether pregnancies are planned and happening in the bounds of a happy marriage. The data only consider the age of the mother.

If members of the Legislature think that amping up the sex ed curriculum to promote social issues will prevent teen pregnancy, then someone hasn’t seen the billboards in Las Vegas lately. Or the ads on taxis that crisscross our city. Or one of the newer additions to our city: trucks that waste fuel, pollute our air and cart around larger-than-life ads for just about anything you might expect to find in Sin City. Don’t forget our neighboring communities with legalized brothels. If we were serious about our children, the state would do more than add a few pages to the textbook.

Many states have what is commonly referred to as “home rule,” meaning that rules are made closest to home by those who will most likely be affected by the rule.

Home rule sounds good to me. If the Legislature feels that the students are lacking in some way, they can pass a joint resolution that captures their concerns and directs districts to work with local communities to review, update and educate students and parents in a way that addresses local issues and local values.

Ruth Johnson is a former president of the Clark County School Board and of the Nevada Association of School Boards.

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  1. Perhaps society wastes time and words on sex education in schools that would be better served and spent on Dr. Gosnell and his practice and policy of baby and mother killing.

    Carmine D

  2. The article mentions those stupid trucks towing billboards around town, wasting fuel and impacting traffic flows. They need to be barred from Las Vegas just like they did in New York. I imagine palms are being greased, however. This is not a libertarian issue-it's just common sense.

  3. Ms. Johnson must not have read the actual bill or she would know that this bill covers COMPREHENSIVE sex EDUCATION. It is NOT a "social movement in the guise of an educational campaign." It is NOT meant to replace teachings at home. It is NOT meant to dilute the recommendations of abstinence. The only one I see guilty of promoting a personal or social agenda in this article is Ms. Johnson.

    It should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived in our community for any length of time that Ms. Johnson is using partisan talking points to advance her cause. But, I am surprised that The Sun allowed her the space to do so.

  4. The great motto of the State of Nevada:

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it and if it is broke, don't fix it, too; whatever it is DON'T FIX IT.

    If abstinence worked there would be no need to fix the broken policy. It is ironic that a head in the sand position only increases the need for this change.

  5. Improving our sex eduction curriculum is needed by MANY students. The data shows that the Vegas community has large numbers of teens becoming parents. Cycles of poverty are linked to pregnancy. Knowledge is power. In particular, we need to give young women knowledge to safely deal with whatever choice they personally make.

    Our community as a whole will benefit from improvement in this area. Many of our youth have expressed their experiences with the current curriculum - it is not sufficient to keep them safe. This is a safety and health and financial issue.

    There is nothing about the bill that prevents parents from determining what type of sex education their child receives. It does provide parents with an additional resource to support their child. Parents should be glad to be supported in this manner.

  6. It is vital to provide current, accurate, and relevant information to our population, including our young people in our schools about preventing substance abuse, to prevent disease both physical and dental, to know how to have a healthy diet and proper exercise, to increase financial literacy, to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

    Are we convinced that ALL parents provide such information and training for their children at home? Statistic show that there are young people who may have fallen through the cracks, especially those who are now on our state's social services.

    Parents always have the right to know what is going on with their children at school, and they should dutifully avail themselves to knowing, by inquiring at their child's school or contact the school district office for answers. That seldom happens these days, especially here in Nevada.

    Ultimately, it is the parent's responsibility to supervise their child as Commenter Arizona18181 testifies with,

    "The problem with the "home rule" is that not every child gets the sex education that they need to make smart choices. We live in a state that thrives off of industries that promote sex and excess, yet we do not teach children the tools they need to live successfully in this environment. I went to high school here and the sex ed we received was pathetic. This bill would help catch and stop sexual abuse at an early age (some people don't teach their children about these issues), help children think about the consequences of drinking and doing drugs and how these actions impact sexual encounters, and discourage youth from having sex! Not telling children about the real facts of life leaves them to question these activities on their own and engage in unsafe practices. The "home rule" fails the majority of children and leaving these issues to parents alone is cheating today's youth out a better chance at life."

    Perhaps, along with providing the yearly announcement and release forms, the school district could provide a Comprehensive Parental Checklist that guides parents on what their child should know, and offer parenting seminars on how parents can address each topic at their homes. Just a thought.

    Blessings and Peace,

  7. Ruth Johnson has completely misrepresented what AB230 is about. There is nothing harmful or even controversial in the bill--it only seeks to improve.

    I am confused by Ms. Johnson's attempt to portray AB230 as destructive. Does anyone know what exactly her agenda is?

  8. I usually have to read articles by Glenn Cook, of the LVRJ, to witness intellectual dishonesty and repeated logical fallacies but Ruth Johnson seems to have doubled down on both.