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Sex ed bill goes to House floor

Published (3/11/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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Robin Edmunds, left, and Terri Cheung testify against allowing for a family life and sexuality education program during a March 9 meeting of the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee. (Photo by Tom Olmscheid)The House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee revisited the hot topic of sex education in schools March 9.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF2986, which would require school districts to offer a responsible family life and sexuality education program for students in grades six through 12.

Schools’ curriculum would encourage abstinence and include age-appropriate, medically accurate information about contraception and disease prevention. Districts could independently choose a curriculum and establish teaching policies, in consultation with parents or guardians of enrolled students. The bill goes to the House floor after the committee approved it 12-8.

Dr. Michael Resnick, a professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Minnesota, said that a recent survey of 1,600 Minnesota parents found that most favored sex education featuring both abstinence encouragement and medically accurate information about birth control and preventing sexually transmitted disease. About 10 percent favored an abstinence-only program, while less than 1 percent did not want any sex education in schools.

Terri Cheung, the mother of a Chaska High School junior, spoke against the bill. She said her daughter’s class, taught by instructors from a clinic outside the school, was promoted as comprehensive but was heavily weighted toward promoting contraceptive use over delaying or avoiding sexual activity.

Cheung said the school wouldn’t make the curriculum available to her despite her requests, and that it featured a contest in which students were blindfolded to see who could put a condom on a wooden model faster.

Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake) said she does believe “in having healthy decision-making so our kids have the facts,” but was “disturbed” by what Cheung described.

“I almost feel like that’s bullying to our children,” said McFarlane, “and we’ve had that discussion here.”

“The problem isn’t the bill; the problem is the individual program your school has got,” said Rep. Tim Faust (DFL-Mora) noting the bill would require parental involvement in choosing a curriculum.

Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors a companion, SF2645. It awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.

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