Idaho House Votes To Force Parents To Opt Kids Into Sex Ed

Mar 6, 2019

A bill requiring parents to opt their children into sex education classes in Idaho is one step closer to becoming law. Legislators in the Idaho House voted 56-14 to pass the proposal Wednesday morning.

Currently, parents in the state have the option to remove their kids from sex ed.

Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls), who chairs the House Education Committee, characterizes the measure as a parental rights issue.

She says she’s concerned guest lecturers at some schools are veering too far from Idaho’s sex ed laws, which were written in 1970.

Part of that code includes that any program adopted by a school district should “... supplement the work in the home and the church in giving youth the scientific, physiological information for understanding sex and its relation to the miracle of life, including knowledge of the power of the sex drive and the necessity of controlling that drive by self-discipline.”

Ehardt says a particular program paid for by the state Department of Health and Welfare that’s used in 17 schools does not represent “Idaho values.”

“It normalizes anal and oral sex,” she said during a public hearing on the bill last week.

“I have to admit, I’m of a different generation. I didn’t even know what this was until college.”

School districts are the ones that ultimately choose which materials to use.  

Niki Forbing-Orr, a spokesperson for IDHW says the curriculum referenced by Ehardt emphasizes abstinence as the safest choice and encourages protection for those choosing to have sex to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

The vote came down along straight party lines.

Requiring parents to opt-in, instead of opting out, could have the opposite effect of what supporters want, according to Rep. Steve Berch (D-Boise).

“…that leads, quite frankly, to more unprotected sex, more sexually-transmitted diseases, more unwanted pregnancies and higher taxes to cover the increases social services that go along with all of that.”

Berch says only about 2 or 3 percent of parents opt out their children from sex education.

Other Democrats worried that an opt-in requirement would also harm children whose parents aren’t involved or are potentially abusive.

The same points were brought up during a committee hearing last week, where testimony was overwhelmingly against the proposal.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio