California Assembly Passes Bill To Streamline Parental Consent Process for Sex Education, HIV/AIDS Classes
The California Assembly yesterday approved 44-31 a bill (SB 71) that would streamline the parental consent process for sex education classes, the San Jose Mercury News reports. According to the Mercury News, California's current parental consent system for classes related to sex education and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, is a "confusing patchwork" of requirements, with varying "opt-in" and "opt-out" consent requirements depending on the school district and the type of instruction (Guido, San Jose Mercury News, 9/10). Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D), the bill's sponsor, said that SB 71 will require schools that teach sex education or HIV prevention classes to send notices to parents at the start of the school year informing them of the dates students are scheduled to take sex education or HIV/AIDS prevention classes and if they are scheduled to participate in sexual behavior surveys, according to the AP/Contra Costa Times (Coleman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/10). Under the bill, parents who do not want their children participating in the classes or surveys can return the notification form indicating that they wish to exclude their child from the instruction or survey, according to the Mercury News. However, if the notification form is not returned, parental consent for all classes or surveys is assumed.
Some Assembly Republicans opposed the bill, saying that it would weaken parental rights, according to the Mercury News. "I don't need this Legislature telling me what to say to my daughters about their behavior and the right behavior in their lives," Assembly member Ray Haynes (R) said. However, Kuehl said that the bill delivers a "clearly defined framework" for schools to gain consent for providing information on sexuality and the prevention of STDs, according to the Mercury News (San Jose Mercury News, 9/10). She added that under the current consent framework, parents also have to opt their children out of sex education and HIV/AIDS education if they do not want their children participating in those classes. Assembly member Darrell Steinberg (D) said that the legislation still requires educators to stress sexual abstinence as "the only sure way" to prevent pregnancy and STDs, according to the AP/Times (AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/10). "The best we can do in a world that encourages sexuality is to make sure [students] get the best possible information," Assembly member Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) said. The bill now returns to the Senate to address changes made by the Assembly. Gov. Gray Davis (D) has said that he would sign the bill if it passes both chambers (San Jose Mercury News, 9/10).