Indiana lawmakers weigh ‘opt-in’ requirement for sex education

Conservative groups urged Indiana lawmakers Thursday to pass a bill that would require parents to "opt in" in order for their children to take sex education classes in public schools.

The proposal, which was debated during a House committee hearing, would require parents to be notified—and give them the opportunity to review—any curriculum dealing with sexual activity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill would also prohibit public schools from providing that education without a parent's written permission.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said it's appropriate for parents to make these decisions and "not local teachers or school administrators."

"I do not have a problem with a parent having approval rights over what their children are taught in school about sexual education," the Indianapolis Republican said Thursday. "Notifying parents of their right to review materials, I think, is entirely reasonable and I would want to do so with my own kids."

The bill sponsored by GOP Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn is slated for a committee vote next week. It was previously approved by the full Senate.

Kruse praised the idea of requiring parent to "opt in" rather than merely giving them the opportunity to opt their kids out of sex ed.

"Opt-in covers all parents so all parents have to make that decision," said Kruse, who is also the Senate Education Committee chairman. "I think that's a better method to use."

Sex education is not required under Indiana law, so schools handle it differently. Many use an opt-out manner where schools send notification to parents about sex education classes and parents must send the form back if they want their child excused from class.

Democrats on the committee said opt-out is working just fine. However, some people are critical of that approach, noting that silence from a parent doesn't mean consent.

Backers of the bill voiced concerns over inappropriate sexual education materials, such as teaching school-age children about condoms and masturbation. The proposal is backed by social conservative groups, including the Indiana Liberty Coalition, Advance America, and the Indiana Catholic Conference.

Some opponents support parental rights but maintain the "opt-in" requirement could result in fewer students learning about important health matters, and a lack of compliance from students and parents.

While Bosma said he supports the general idea behind the bill, he did caution that it looks "a little unwieldy," which could mean changes will be made to the proposal.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.