Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2015

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OTHER VOICES:

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Planned Parenthood has said repeatedly that Nevada’s sex education curriculum is outdated and failing our students.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