Update: Kansas sex education bills stir debate

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- A contingent of Wichita State University students, including Paul Brink, had made their way to Topeka Monday for the annual Choice USA Lobby Day.

The event just happened to fall during the week when two controversial education bills had begun working their way through the Kansas House.

The college students decided to make the bills their cause.

"The bills allow students to fall through the cracks," Brink said.

The two bills would require Kansas students to get a signature from their parents before they can receive instruction on "health and human sexuality." Currently, in most districts, students can opt out of sexual education.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) in response to an incident in the Shawnee Mission School District. In a school classroom, as part of the sex education curriculum, a poster had been put up that listed sexual acts.

A House version of the bill was introduced in committee Tuesday. It could reach the full house in the next week, according to statehouse sources.

The college students who converged on the statehouse Monday are among those who say they have serious concerns about the bills.

Brink, is a member of Wichita State's Feminists On Campus Uniting Students (FOCUS), a Choice USA affiliate group. He and three of his classmates worked Monday to lobby against the legislation alongside students from Emporia State and the University of Kansas.

"We went and talked in a group to individual legislators. We set up meetings and sometimes did drop-ins," Brink said.

The students say state lawmakers should not be making this kind of decision that would affect all Kansas school districts when it comes to sex education.

"It's a decision that should be left up to the individual school boards, it should be controlled locally," Brink said. "It should not be a statewide mandate because we think that's kind of an overreach."

Further, they say the bill would cause many students to miss out on key education.

"How can we expect our youth to make good decisions about their own life if we are not providing them with correct information," Brink said.

While many students and parents say they are opposed, a number of parents have written KAKE News to say they like the bill. The parents all declined our request for an on camera interview.

But they told us they say they don't want their children exposed to too much too soon, as they believe the kids were in the Shawnee Mission School District.

They say they'd like to have a say of what their children are taught and how. They say it's a parent's responsibility to educate their children about sex, not the government's responsibility. If they don't have a say, the parents say, they wouldn't be able to teach their children in a way that brought in their family beliefs and values.

But Brink others say a bill by lawmakers that would control every district based on an incident at one school is not the answer.

"We will keep in contact with (lawmakers) and track the way this is going so we can discuss with them the process to oppose this," Brink said.

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