Legislators in Colorado have recently proposed a bill that would ban abstinence-only sex education in the state’s public schools. The bill, HB19-1032, requires that public schools adopt a mandated curriculum or teach nothing at all. It has drawn strong opposition from the state’s Republican party and conservative groups.
While most of the state’s public schools have taught a “comprehensive” sex education curriculum since the passage of a different law in 2013, some rural and charter schools have opted out in favor of sticking to an abstinence-only curriculum. This new proposal, backed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, would ensure that these schools drop the abstinence-only education. It’s an alarming development for charter schools in the state, which have their own governing boards and historically have been allowed to choose their own curricula.
The bill “clarifies content requirements for public schools that offer comprehensive human sexuality education” and “prohibits instruction from explicitly or implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.”
Colorado GOP Chairman Jeff Hays called the proposal “radical sex ed,” saying that it would “require sex-ed curriculum in Colorado public schools to conform to radical notions of sexuality and gender, while allowing classes to cover these topics without parents being notified.”
The Colorado Catholic Conference also voiced strong opposition to the bill. “These matters are best left to local school districts in direct consultation with parents and teachers,” executive director Jennifer Kraska told the Catholic News Agency. “Each community and school are different, and on matters as important as sex education parents should take the dominant role in deciding what type of instruction is best.”
The proposal came under early fire from state Republicans for its failure to include information on the state’s Safe Haven laws as part of the curriculum. These laws allow a new parent to surrender a newborn less than 72 hours old to a hospital or fire station with no questions asked. Since 2000, 60 babies have been surrendered in the state, making the omission of this information troubling in a curriculum that’s aiming to present all the options.
In response to the exclusion, Republican Senator Jim Smallwood proposed separate legislation that ensures the teaching of the Safe Haven law in schools as part of the general health-education curriculum. That legislation is advancing in the Senate, regardless of the status of the sex education proposal.