JUNEAU — As members of a Juneau Girl Scout troop looked on, the Alaska Senate on Friday narrowly passed a bill that would ban abortion services providers from teaching sex education in schools.
The bill also would allow parents to withdraw their children from any activity, class, standardized test or program to which the parent objects.
The vote was 11-7, with the lone Democrat who voted in favor serving notice of reconsideration, meaning the bill could be voted on again. The bill’s sponsor Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, said he believes it will pass again.
Planned Parenthood says the prohibition would apply squarely to its organization.
Dunleavy said the issue boils down to parental choice and avoiding indoctrination by abortion providers, whom he said are in schools recruiting kids. People would be similarly critical if a group like the National Rifle Association spreading its agenda in schools, he said.
“Let’s be straight, the abortion providers are a business. They’re in our schools to recruit our kids as agents of their business and they’re in our schools to recruit kids for potential clients later on down the road,” Dunleavy said.
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia require school districts to allow parental involvement in sex education. Three require parental consent before a child can get instruction and 36 allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Melanie Hadaway, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, said her district, which is comprised of about 14,000 students, provides health and sexual education curriculum guidelines for schools but allows teachers and school administrators to determine if outside speakers should be used in the classroom.
She wasn’t sure how often representatives from Planned Parenthood taught in the school district but said the language in the bill that specified that no volunteer could be affiliated with the organization could be burdensome.
“The expectation that school districts are supposed to vet to this level anyone who might be coming into a school is of concern to me,” she said.
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii called the bill awful news for sexual education in Alaska. Spokesman Erik Houser said Planned Parenthood provides direct education to over 2,000 students every year.
Houser directed questions about curriculum to a Planned Parenthood-maintained website that contains information for educators, parents and students about age-appropriate sex and health education. The site contains information about the topics covered in a sexual education class including abstinence, body image, contraception, gender, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“It’s hard to define because it’s different all over the place —it really depends on a specific district’s needs,” Houser wrote in an email.
Melissa Linton, curriculum and assessment coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, said the district uses a health curriculum informed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Alaska State Health Standards.
She said district employees including teachers, nurses and counselors primarily teach the curriculum but would not say whether a secondary institution that would also be responsible for delivering sex education instruction.
Juneau parent Kristin Cox, whose daughter is a sixth-grader, said she got notice that her daughter would be going through a sex education class last year and attended the class, partly out of concern for what would be taught. She said Planned Parenthood taught the class and she found it to be scientific and age-appropriate.
“It’s totally misguided and ignorant to suggest that Planned Parenthood is providing substandard or any education or training that is somehow politicized or promoting unsafe sex,” Cox said.