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New bill would require parents to opt-in for student sex ed

By Emily Adamson, KECI Reporter, eadamson@keci.com
Published On: Jan 28 2013 05:49:22 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

In Helena Monday, legislators heard a bill to change the requirements for sex education in public schools.

It's a bill that's asking parental consent for every student to be taught any sort of human sexual education.

During the 2011 legislature Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed a similar bill.

This session House Bill (HB) 239 would require schools to notify parents about sexual education curriculum. Representative Cary Smith, R- Billings sponsored the one from 2011, and is sponsoring this one as well. Smith said it's an important topic that isn't going away.

HB 239 is an adjustment to attendance and excuses in Montana's public schools, and it's specific to sex ed. The bill would make it illegal for students to attend any class that involves human sexual education unless a parent agrees.

The Missoula County Public School district already has a similar policy in place.

“They get a documentation on the human sexuality component and what those specific areas that are going to be addressed,” said Missoula County Public Schools Curriculum Coordinator Alanna Vaneps. “While also within that letter there's an opt-out at the bottom of the letter for parents to be able to sign off.”

But if HB 239 passes, instead of asking for parents to opt-out, administrators will ask parents to opt-in. So unless parents specifically approve, students would be excused from learning any of the sexual education curriculum.

“Parents are a part of that, so we are open in what it is that the curriculum includes,” said Vaneps.

Transparency of what's being taught is what Rep. Smith thinks is most important.

But one thing that's agreed on across the board is not choosing to be part of the sex ed curriculum shouldn't prevent kids from going to school.

“What we don't want to do is encourage students not to attend school, so we always provide an alternate curriculum,” said Vaneps.

Overall it wouldn't be a big change to their current policy though administrators say it would require more tracking, since they would have to go through the paperwork for students who would participate, rather than those who don't.

To read the full text of the bill click here.