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House Panel Denies Mandating Parents Opt-In To Sex Education

Jenifer Jones
SD State Capitol

Lawmakers in Pierre reject a measure that requires parents opt in to education related to human sexuality. House Bill 1168 mandates parents provide written permission before a student participates in any education related to sex ed, abstinence or human sexuality. That includes specific courses but also units in required classes such as biology.

State Representative Tom Holmes is a former classroom teacher.

"Biology teachers, what we used to call home economics teachers who deal with early childhood and such, treat this subject with the greatest sensitivity," Holmes says. "I know in my own social studies classes, if we had a topic like abortion or embryonic stem cell research, I was so careful to deal with both sides of it, because you understand your students are coming from different perspectives and you want to honor those perspectives and give them credence – but at the same time you want to educate them and give them the information they need to make an informed decision for themselves and for their lives."

Holmes says he understands the intent of the bill but says it isn’t necessary.

Opponents of House Bill 1168 say schools already operate on policies that inform parents and allow them to keep their children out of sex ed teaching.

Supporters say schools should gain specific parental consent for children to participate in human sexuality education.

Members of the House Education committee Wednesday defeated the bill by a vote of eight to four.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).