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State Legislatures Advancing Sex Education Proposals

Numerous sex education proposals have already been introduced in state legislatures across the country so far this year. As of February 2013, four states—Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, and Texas—have already introduced and started the process of considering sexuality education legislation.

In terms of advancing more comprehensive approaches to sex education, both Colorado and Massachusetts are taking the lead. Colorado House Bill (HB 1081), introduced by Representative Duran, would create a sexuality education grant program within the state Department of Public Health and Environment. The funding would allow public schools and school districts the opportunity to “create and implement evidence based, medically accurate, culturally sensitive and age appropriate comprehensive human sexuality education programs.” HB 1081 also includes the formation of an interagency “youth sexual health team,” which would function as the oversight entity for the grant program. To date, this bill has passed the Colorado state House and has moved over to the Senate.[1]

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, Representative Henriquez and Senator Brownsberger introduced a joint petition, HB 421, in the first month of the Massachusetts 2013 state legislative session. HB 421 “establishes a comprehensive health education curriculum in public schools, requiring health education be age-appropriate, medically accurate and evidence-based.” Minimum standards include instruction on HIV/AIDS, reproduction and sexual health education, among others. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education.[2]

On the other hand, Montana and Texas have more restrictive policies before them. In Montana HB 239 was introduced by Representative C. Smith and would require written parental consent prior to allowing a student to participate in sexuality education instruction.[3] This is known as an opt-in policy, which only six other states currently require. Under an opt-in policy, schools need permission from a parent before their child can attend the class. Educators fear, however, that some young people may be unable to gain active consent from their parents and that others will simply forget to do so.[4] The overwhelming majority of states have opt-out policies, which allow students to be exempted from sexuality education upon the request of a parent. Such policies typically provide notification to parents about what will be taught in their child's sexuality education program, including which curriculum is used and who will be teaching the class. Students are automatically enrolled in class unless parents request otherwise.[5] HB 239 has passed the Montana State House and has been moved to the Senate.

A similar bill in Texas, HB 1057introduced by Representative Leach in early February, would require written parental consent prior to allowing to a student participate in “human sexuality or family planning instruction.” Similar to Montana’s HB 239, this bill would also change the current policy to an opt-in policy. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on State Affairs.[6]


[1] “State Policies on Sex Education in Schools,” National Conference of State Legislatures, February 2013, accessed February 27, 2013, http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx.

[2] Ibid. 

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Two State Boards of Education Attempt to Limit Students’ Access to Information,” http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&featureID=1332

[5] Ibid.

[6] “State Policies on Sex Education in Schools,” National Conference of State Legislatures, February 2013, accessed February 27, 2013, http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx

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