Letter: Concerned about HB 156

The League of Women Voters of Alaska is concerned about current requirements in education bill HB 156 regarding the important topic of sex education.

As a last minute amendment, Section 18 was added to HB 156 requiring the pre-approval for both sex education teachers and curriculum by the school board and the public. This places an undue burden on smaller school districts and those educators trying to provide this important curriculum. Such a burden has the very real potential to increase the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies in Alaska’s teen population by reducing teen access to important information on human sexuality.

The League of Women Voters of the United States supports basic healthcare for all citizens, including sex education based on the most current medical and scientific understanding. In contrast to this ideal, The Journal of Adolescent Health reports, for the period spanning 2006-2013, a decline in the “receipt of formal sex education and low rates of parental communication” on the topic of sex for those aged 15-19. This was particularly true in rural areas, and the decline was largest for females, equaling a 10 percent drop in sex education. To counter this trend, the League supports the efforts of Title-X supported sex education programs such as what Planned Parenthood offers. These programs not only meet medical and scientific standards, but also promote healthy choices and relationships and provide accurate information in the area of human reproduction in a non-judgmental way.

Unfortunately, Title-X supported programs reach only 2,000 students out of the approximately 67,618 students in grades 6-12 in Alaska’s public schools. The medical experts asked to assist the classroom teacher in teaching sex education, such as public health nurses and visiting doctors, will need pre-approval of both their credentials and their written curriculum complete with materials and literature for public review. These restrictions may further drive the downward trend reported in The Journal of Adolescent Health.

While the League of Women Voters of Alaska supports the parental right to opt out of science-based sex education classes, removing this knowledge from all students would have a negative health effect. LWVAK urges the Legislature, should HB 156 come up again for a vote, to remove Section 18, as it puts an undue burden on the teachers of sex education and may result in smaller school districts avoiding this important curriculum piece altogether.

Judy Andree,

Chair, Legislative Action,

League of Women Voters of Alaska