Amendment restricts who can teach sex ed

A senator who tried to ban abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from teaching sex ed in schools introduced an amendment that would impose even greater restrictions on sex ed, like prohibiting most public health nurses and doctors from teaching it.

The Senate Education Committee Wednesday night passed House Bill 156 with Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s amendment that said only a person that possesses a valid teacher certificate and is under contract with the school can teach sex education, human reproduction education or human sexuality education.

Dunleavy, Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, and Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, voted yes; Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, voted no; and Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, was absent.

“We’ve been clear that sex education should be taught, reproduction education should be taught and the new concept that I think a lot of us are learning about — sexuality — probably should also be touched upon,” Dunleavy said Wednesday night during Senate Education, which he chairs.

“Sex education is the biology. Sexuality is now the new view of sex. I think we’ve got to be very careful, very careful that we have the right people in there,” he said.

Dunleavy’s Senate Bill 89, which would’ve banned abortion providers from teaching in classrooms, died in Health & Social Services Committee Tuesday night after having already passed the Senate Floor and House Education.

“I stayed up most of (Tuesday) night after 89 died in the other body and I thought, ‘What’s the best way to serve kids, deal with the issue of sex education, sexuality education and reproduction education?’ and I don’t know why I didn’t think about it earlier, but the same way we deal with biology, the same way with Spanish, the same way we deal with elementary ed — have it done by a certificated teacher who’s been vetted and hired and contracted with the school district,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said his amendment doesn’t block any group or any subgroup, but Erik Houser said it does much worse. Houser is spokesman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, the organization’s advocacy arm in Alaska.

“This makes it so that nurses, doctors, pharmacists and peer educators are now essentially outlawed from providing sexual health education in Alaska public schools,” Houser said.

Dunleavy staff member Christa McDonald agreed with that point when reached by phone on Thursday.

“It would have to be a certified teacher, a classroom teacher,” she said.

Houser said the amendment gets in the way of providing sex ed to Alaska students. He added, while Dunleavy’s amendment may be aimed at Planned Parenthood, “there are many other consequences of this because there are sexual health educators across the state who are not Planned Parenthood, but who are also not people with teacher’s licenses.”

Planned Parenthood’s three full-time and one part-time educators in Alaska are not certified teachers or employed by the school district, Houser said.

“They are invited in by teachers and principals to fill in a gap that the teacher either can’t fill or wants help filling,” he said.

Alyse Galvin with the statewide, non-partisan coalition Great Alaska Schools testified Wednesday night on the committee substitute to House Bill 156, which included Dunleavy’s amendment.

She said the amendment creates a barrier to students receiving sex ed, “We don’t have extra money right now to train up teachers to get that done right.”

Butch Moore also testified Wednesday. Moore, whose daughter was killed by her boyfriend in 2014, helped push “Bree’s Law” in the Alaska Legislature last year. The law was included in the Alaska Safe Children’s Act.

“If we have somebody from Providence Hospital come in and teach CPR, or somebody from the fire department come in and teach stop drop and roll, or somebody from an archery club come teach archery during a gym class, as long as there’s a teacher present, then that’s OK because we have a certified teacher there supervising a class,” he said.

“This (amendment) is specifically singling out sex ed and reproduction education versus any other kind of education. Shouldn’t it be the same for all education?” Moore asked.

The Senate Finance Committee, HB 156’s next committee of referral, is scheduled to hear the bill Friday at 9 a.m.

If the bill passes Senate Finance and the Senate Floor, it would have to go back to the House.

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com.

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