Colorado bill would ban teaching abstinence-only sex ed in public schools

Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation that would prohibit the state's public schools from teaching abstinence-only sex education, a measure that has drawn criticism from the state Republican Party and a prominent religious group.

The Denver Post reports that the bill, backed by Planned Parenthood and The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), characterizes abstinence-only sex ed as "not comprehensive and inconsistent with the requirements" of the curriculum. The legislation also mandates that sex-ed classes include "medically accurate information about all preventive methods to avoid unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS"  and allow students to "to decide for themselves which preventative methods are best suited for their individual needs, beliefs and values."

Teachers would be required to include "the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals" in their lessons, without using "shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools."

Jennifer Kraska, the executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told the Catholic News Agency last week that the proposed legislation implies that "people or families with certain beliefs and teachings about sex, relationships and gender (like those of the Catholic Church) are basically wrong in their beliefs and teachings."

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The paper reports that most Colorado public schools have taught so-called "comprehensive" sex-ed courses since 2013, but some charter and rural schools opted out of doing so. The current bill removes that option, requiring schools to teach either the proposed sex-ed curriculum or nothing at all.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays described the proposed curriculum as "radical sex ed" that 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."

Under the proposal, parents would be notified about human sexuality classes and given the option to remove their children from those classes, but will not be notified about classes on sexual orientation and healthy relationships.

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The bill also prohibits educators from "explicitly or implicitly" endorsing a particular religious ideology while teaching sex ed, nor are they permitted to show a preference for options like adoption or abortion if they choose to discuss pregnancy with their students.

According to The Colorado Springs Gazette, Republicans also object to the bill not requiring educators to inform students about the state's so-called "safe haven" law, which allow parents to turn over a baby less than 72 hours old to any employee of a fire station or hospital with no questions asked.