Denver, CO — The Colorado Senate will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that requires public schools teach kids about consent and bans abstinence-only sex education. The bill, H.B. 19-1032, also mandates lessons about consent, gender identity, the use of gender pronouns, and what relationships between heterosexual, bisexual, gay and trans people can look like.
“Sex education should include all forms of sex. Not just sex between a man and woman,” said Reece Norberg, 17, a senior at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. “We also cannot ignore the fact that people have sex. Abstinence is not something that should be taught anymore.”
If passed, the bill would affect state-wide sex education curriculum as early as Dec. 1, 2019.
Thirty-seven states require schools to cover or emphasize abstinence in their curriculum, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Compare that to the only 13 states that require sex ed to be “medically accurate.”
But as the #MeToo movement has gained traction over the last two years, a new conversation has emerged within schools about whether sex ed should teach consent and appropriate sexual behaviors. If the Colorado bill passes, it will be the ninth state in the country to require that consent be taught in schools.
But some parents and students are concerned about the bill. Under the legislation, Colorado charter schools would lose the ability to apply for waivers from the curriculum, a right these schools currently have.
Parents can still take their children out of a sex education class on an individual basis, but some are concerned about bullying if they do so.
“I really don’t think schools should be involved in [sex education] at all. It is the parents’ right to teach their child what they believe,” said Weston Imer, 15, a ninth grader who is homeschooled and who was the co-chair of President Trump's 2016 campaign in Jefferson County, Colorado.
“My young cousins will be affected by this and it could cause problems when they grow up,” Imer said. “They could become sexually active at too young of an age and being taught these things in school could lead to inappropriate behavior in them.”
The bill includes language requiring curriculum to be “age appropriate,” but opponents like Imer say it’s too vague.
One of the biggest opponents of the bill is Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. In a Jan. 27 letter that was read at Catholic masses around Denver when the bill was first introduced, Aquila said the new sex-ed curriculum “contradicts human nature and is inconsistent with Christian values.”
“We know that God made us male and female, in his image and likeness, but the comprehensive curriculum route which most schools will likely adopt teaches innocent children this is not true,” Aquila wrote. “Public schools would have to promote abortion as an equal option to life, and parents wouldn’t be notified before lessons were presented on gender-identity and sexual orientation. Each of us must do our part to fight this legislation.”
Several students testified in support of bill last month, according to the New York Times, including Clark Wilson, 15, a high school freshman in Denver. In his testimony, Wilson recalled a lesson in his eighth grade class, in which his sex-ed teacher rolled a piece of tape on a table until it lost its stickiness. Wilson told the Times the lesson was that “people are like tape and once they have sex they’re dirty and can’t have meaningful relationships.”
After a heated 10-hour House debate in January that was attended by hundreds of people, the bill passed 39-23. If it’s passed by the Senate, it’s expected that Democratic Gov. Jared Polis — the first openly gay man elected governor in U.S. history — will sign the bill into law.