Bill expanding sex-education gets initial approval from Senate, sparks debates on abstinence

Bill includes opt-out, cultural sensitivity

DENVER - A bill expanding sex-education standards won initial approval in the state Senate Friday, sparking debates about abstinence, teen sex and more.

House Bill 1081 would require parents to opt students out of sex-education instead of opting in, as is current law, according to the Denver Post. The bill includes an expansion of sex-education to include “culturally sensitive” demographics such as immigrants, people of color, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. It also provides grand to schools that implement the new standards, the newspaper reports.

A Republican amendment to the bill reinstating the opt-in practice failed.

Republicans say parents and school districts should control what students are taught, while Democrats insist the bill still gives them that power.

Senator Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, said the bill is about reducing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill says the "moneys distributed through the program must only be used for the purpose of providing comprehensive human sexuality education programs that are evidence-based, culturally sensitive, medically accurate, age-appropriate, reflective of positive youth development approaches, and that comply with statutory content standards."

Opponents say the bill ignores abstinence as an option and might offend many parents.

"Why is there such an aversion to the abstinence topic?" asked Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, according to the newspaper.

Proponents say that children may have sex whether parents want them to or not because of exposure to racy TV shows and other influences, and that opponents are the ones who are avoiding awkward topics.

"This is the 21st century," Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, told the newspaper. "We're in the age of AIDS and genital warts."

The bill requires further approval in the Senate before it goes back to the House, which will consider Senate amendments added to the bill.

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