Measure tramples rights it claims to support

  • Saturday, February 27, 2016 5:13pm
  • Opinion

It is no small irony when government proclaims it is acting to protect a group’s rights — but does so by limiting the rights of others.

On Friday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 89, sponsored by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Wasilla Republican. A reconsideration vote will be taken up at a later date.

The measure purports to codify “the rights of parents to review educational content and withdraw their children from activities they find objectionable,” according to a Friday press release from the Senate Majority. It requires local school boards to “adopt policies to promote the involvement of parents in the school district’s education program.” Those policies are required to, among other things, allow parents to withdraw their children from standardized assessment tests, as well as from classes that involve human reproduction or sexual matters.

We wholeheartedly agree that parents should take the lead in their children’s education, especially when it comes to sensitive topics such as human sexuality. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District already has a policy in place allowing parents to opt their child out of parts or all of the district’s health curriculum. If legislators feel district policies are not sufficient and such matters need to be written into state law, that seems reasonable.

However, if that’s all that SB 89 is intended to do, it would stop right there.

Instead, the measure goes on to prohibit school districts from permitting an abortion services provider to provide course material or instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. Note that it says nothing about what should be included in a human sexuality curriculum or what guidelines should be followed. It simply bans one specific type of agency from sharing information — with no mechanism to allow schools boards, educators or parents to determine the educational value of that information.

That measure appears to be squarely aimed at Planned Parenthood, as we’re not aware of any other abortion services providers that also have extensive women’s health and sex education programs. In fact, abortion services are just one of the many programs Planned Parenthood offers.

To be clear, we are not saying that Planned Parenthood should or should not be sharing information about human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases in Alaska’s public schools.

What we are saying is that Alaska’s youth need to receive as much accurate, honest information about human sexuality and healthy relationships as is deemed appropriate, and it needs to come from trusted, reliable sources. Determination of what those sources should be must come from — as the bill says — “a local school board, … in consultation with parents, teachers, and school administrators.”

To deliberately limit the options available to communities to deliver quality sexual education tramples all over the parental rights SB 89 claims to support.

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