Sex education is a hot topic in Helena. Two years ago the Helena School District adopted a health enhancement curriculum that included a controversial section pertaining to what is commonly known as sex education. The debate surrounding the sex ed portion of the curriculum gained a lot of attention throughout the state.

That attention, in part, seems to have led to a House Bill 239, which would require a parent’s signature before a child could receive sex education at school. It would also ban groups who provide abortion services from participating in sex ed in schools. A similar bill was passed by the legislature in 2011 and vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Under HB 239, a student in Montana would essentially have to opt for sex ed via a permission form signed by their parent or guardian.

Under current law, students receive sex ed by default and can opt out, via a request from a parent or guardian.

The bill’s requirement of opting in for sex ed essentially misses the point.

Most parents are concerned with what their children are taught. They should be concerned about school curriculum and they should be aware of what it is.

This awareness and engagement in a school’s curriculum shouldn’t take legislation. It shouldn’t take the government taking away sex ed for everyone but the students who get a waiver. This awareness is on the shoulders of both the parents and the educators and it takes a constructive and open relationship between schools and families.

The problem with HB 239 is it sets a default of no sex ed for all students. This means when students walk through the doors of a school, their curriculum will not include sex education unless their parent or guardian says it’s OK.

The debate surrounding sex education can be heated and divisive. It’s necessarily different than other parts of the school curriculum because it deals with deeply personal issues that are influenced by things like ethnicity, family and faith.

And yet expressions of sex and sexuality are an ever growing part of our daily lives, for better or worse. Kids begin to have questions about sexuality at a young age and we’ve all heard the horror stories about children engaging in sexual activity much, much earlier than appropriate.

Children whose parents read to them at a young age are better prepared for reading and writing in preschool and kindergarten. Similarly, it’s logical that kids with parents who talk to them about sex and sexuality are better prepared to face those challenges in adolescence and adulthood.

But there are kids who have parents who will never have a meaningful conversation with them about sex. They’ll never sit them down for the “talk,” never explain the hurt and joy that come from sharing your heart with someone, never caution against the dangers of promiscuity, never discuss the varying views or lifestyles that come along with sexuality. Too many parents leave it to the schools and the world at large to teach such things to their children. And, quite honestly, that is a shame.

So for these students, sex ed is important and many of them won’t have a parent who cares enough to find out what is being taught at school or to sign a permission form.

Schools have to get parental signatures to compete in athletics. Many schools also require parents to approve class schedules. Why can’t the sex ed curriculum be included in the packets provided to parents at the beginning of the year? This doesn’t require legislation; it requires school districts and parents working together.

And even though Helena’s sex ed portion of their health curriculum was controversial when it was approved in 2010, very few parents have opted to pull their students out of the classes, said Helena Superintendent Kent Kultgen.

Let’s not create legislation to accomplish something that better communication would solve. HB 239 has been transmitted to the senate and we hope it goes no further. However, we do hope the discussion continues on how best to provide our kids with the sex education they need.

(11) comments

Agent Smith
Agent Smith

What a kid learns in school should NEVER be out of a parent's control. But rather than make a fuss over Sex Ed, how about dropping it and teaching them something that won't embarrass them or cause them to snicker or cause them to judge their other classmates or cause them to deviate from their natural preferences - how about putting together a course in Montana History and teaching them that? Sprinkled with stories of frontier justice would also let them know early on that crime isn't tolerated.

dietz1963

And to think there was a time parents were smart enough to raise/teach their kids the basics. Now, lets turn it over to the government.

PercyJay

It's almost impossible for me to believe that anyone today believes someone should talk to children about sex without asking their parents first. This is not about "sex positive" or "morality." It's a pretty simple business people. people who are not legally of age to consent to sex should not be learning about sex without their parents being involved.

JMWB

Amen! Montana's out of wedlock birth rate is already one of the highest in the nation. Lets not encourage that trend any further. I'd much rather my tax dollars go to teach sex ed than go to welfare payments. If parents want to encourage sexual ignorance in their children they are free to opt out of the class.

dietz1963

JMWB, parents that chose to opt out aren't encouraging sexual ignorance. My kids are grown now, but do you think if I would "opt out" I would be teachign sexual ignorance? Why, don't think I (or other) parents are intelligant enough to teach our own kids about sex? I find that insulting. I wasn't taught sex ed in school as many others weren't and amazingly enough there weren't a lot of pregnancies. Probably cause if we did, foot would go to a$$ (so to speak). But we don't do that anymore, and I'm told sex ed began to be taught/introduced in school what, over 20 years ago? In that time, its increased and 2 years ago to prevent the increase the fix is to lower the age its taught in school? I have a different view, somewhere along the way parents stopped being parents and instead, put it on schools or anywhere else on teaching things that absolutely should be taught at home.

Heres another opinion, kids are going to continue to do what they do. Been that way for decades, will continue that way. How many of us were taught by our elders did we do something else because we figured we were smarter then they were or felt they were simply wrong? And how many of us wished we had listened? Todays generation is the same, if anything else by it being taught in school may be viewed by some kids as sex "is more ok". If not, why would it be taught in school, right?

steeline

Sex education will not stop unwed motherhood. In fact by drawing attention to sex at an early age it will create an interest in sexual activity that might not have been there before. The kids will want to experiment. It would be more appropriate for the schools to develope a sex education course for parents to take so they can their kids about sex. That would be much more pallatable to the parents and the public. I sure don't want someone talking to my kids ever about sex until they are of age to make their own choices.

FlamingLiberal1

Claiming that sex ed leads to more sex and more teen pregnancy is the height of absurdity, and completely flies in the face of the actual evidence.

dietz1963

Whats absurd is to keep passing the buck onto teachers to do what parents should be doing. Where does it end and whats next?

FlamingLiberal1

So your response to the fact that some parents are dropping the ball is for the school to drop it too?

dietz1963

Not sure what sex ed has anything to do with preparing kids for the work place which was the original intent. The old "reading/writting/arithmetic". You want your kids taught an education or be taught about life in general? At what point are parents, parents? So when the parent "drops the ball", society picks it up. Did I understand that right? Why not just put them straight into governments hands then and bypass raising altogether. Seems like its going that way anyway.

steeline

It was once said by a well known dictator, give me control of the schools and I will have control of the people in 10 years. He was right and there was a horrific second world war over it. It is dangerous for parents to "co-opt" with government educators by defaulting parental obligations and duties to the government run schools. There some things that the government has no business messing with. No matter what the scare tactic or fear mongering they do.

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