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School boards would have authority over human sexuality materials in bill passed by committee

A health textbook sits on a classroom desk.
FILE PHOTO: Jill Sheridan
/
IPB News
Critics of the bill said school boards do not have experience creating or approving courses on human sexuality and that approving those types of courses are outside their expertise.

A Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday that would give school boards the authority to approve or deny curricular materials concerning human sexuality.

The bill’s author said it gives parents more information and allows school boards to maintain local control. But critics of the bill said it could be difficult to implement and cause a chilling effect for the LGBTQ+ community.

Senate Bill 128 requires schools to publish classroom materials and lesson plans related to human sexuality online and notify parents when the lessons will occur. Materials listed in the bill include textbooks, audiovisual materials, websites and printed materials. The lessons must also be approved by the school board.

Parents in Indiana can already opt their children out of classroom instruction on human sexuality. A law passed last year prohibits teaching human sexuality in classrooms below the fourth grade, so this year’s bill only applies to students in fourth to 12th grade.

Sen. Gary Byrne (R-Byrneville), one of the bill’s authors, said this bill gives parents more transparency about their children’s education.

“Publishing this information will just help parents to better decide whether they want to opt out,” he said.

READ MORE: Indiana sex educators confront online attacks, nervous schools

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He also said getting approval for lessons concerning human sexuality will help keep school boards in the loop about what students are learning.

Critics of the bill said school boards do not have experience creating or approving courses on human sexuality and that approving those types of courses are outside their expertise. They also expressed concern that the bill could be used to censor content about the LGBTQ+ community.

Emma Vosicky, GenderNexus executive director, said human sexuality is too loosely defined in the bill.

“The term is so ambiguous that even the bill’s sponsor couldn’t answer if the term human sexuality included banning 'And Tango Makes Three' – a book about two dude penguins raising a chick,” she said.

Despite opposition, the bill passed the Senate Education and Career Development Committee Wednesday and now heads to the full Senate.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

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Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.