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Politics & Government

Idaho House Republicans Unanimously Back Sex Ed Opt-In Bill

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FRANKIE BARNHILL / BOISE STATE PUBLIC RADIO
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A bill that would force parents to opt-in their children for sex-ed is headed to the Senate after passing out of the House Friday morning along party lines.

The bill would let all kids take basic, anatomy-based sex-ed classes, but they’d need parental permission to learn about things like human sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Idaho values parental rights. We value the fact that a parent should be involved,” said Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls), who sponsors the bill.

During a public hearing earlier this week, Ehardt said a push to change what’s taught in sex education is “about to hit Idaho” – something she wants to prevent.

Rep. Gary Marshall (R-Idaho Falls) said many Idaho families still hold traditional views about sex.

“For them, the words ‘sexual purity’ and ‘chastity’ still have very important, and yes, even sacred meaning,” Marshall said.

Teaching these kids more about human sexuality, he argues, would alienate them.

“If we want to chase more families out of our public education then one way to do it is not allow parents to opt-out of this kind of education.”

But parents can already opt their kids out of sex-ed.

Rep. Steve Berch (D-Boise) said only 2% of families do so. He said the bill “turns logic and common sense on its head.”

“Pining to live in the world of a 1950s sitcom will not prepare children and young adults for the challenges that they face in the 21st century,” Berch said.

Other Democrats who opposed the bill say opting in poses logistical challenges for parents, too.

“It’s really going to capture that other group of parents who are actually fine with their kids taking sex-ed but may not be that organized,” said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, noting she’s in that group.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve found a permission slip crunched up in a ball at the bottom of my kid’s backpack, soaked in yogurt, that’s two months out of date,” Rubel said.

The permission slip would also be sent home within two weeks of the class, something Rubel said should’ve been included with general permission forms sent to all parents at the beginning of the year.

Ehardt said parents might overlook the form if it’s not a standalone slip.

House lawmakers passed a similar measure two years ago, but it died in the Senate where the bill is heading next.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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