Bill would make it easier for parents to object to sex ed
At least two state laws already allow parents to remove their child from a classroom if they object to certain lessons. A Litchfield Republican wants to make objecting even easier when it comes to health and sex education classes.
Currently, parents must cite a religious objection to pull their child from a health or sex education class. That forces those parents who have a moral – as opposed to a religious – objection to lie, Rep. Ralph Boehm told the House Education Committee yesterday. Boehm is sponsoring a bill that would allow parents to object without giving a reason.
“In a lot of school districts, this is already the policy,” Boehm said yesterday. “And a lot of schools say it’s up to the parent. But the law says it must be a religious objection.”
Boehm has the support of Rep. Joe Pitre, a Rochester Republican, and Rep. Rick Ladd, a Grafton Republican who’s also a retired school principal. Although, Ladd said he’d like Boehm’s bill rewritten to require parents to give a “justifiable” reason for objecting.
“It can’t be, ‘I walk into the classroom and I don’t really like that teacher, so I’m just going to opt out,’ ” Ladd said.
Mary Bubnis of the state Department of Education testified that her agency also objects to the wording of Boehm’s bill, saying it’s too broad. Education officials have seen parents object to their child learning about hygiene in health class, Bubnis said.
She encouraged the committee, which did not vote on Boehm’s bill yesterday, to require parents to give some reason for objecting and to limit objections to sex education.
Rep. Judith Spang, a Durham Democrat on the committee, expressed similar concerns. She talked about the intersection of public health education and sex education and worried that students could be excused from health classes on preventing sexually transmitted diseases under the bill and existing law.
“Do you believe it’s possible for schools to thread a needle here?” she asked Boehm. “Where they can avoid talking about sex in any way that parents object but still keeps a child safe?”
The last Legislature passed a bill, over former governor John Lynch’s veto, that allows parents or guardians to object to any school instruction on any grounds. That law, which took effect a year ago, requires parents to shoulder the cost of finding a suitable way for their children to meet state education requirements.
The existing law governing objections to just health and sexual education material also requires parents to pay the cost of an alternative lesson plan. Boehm’s bill does not specifically change that. But Ladd told the House committee yesterday that there would be no cost to parents because school districts already have alternative lesson plans in place.
(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)