March 24, 2005
Arizona lawmakers refused Wednesday to require school districts that provide sex education to students to provide them with "medically accurate’’ information.
The 5-3 vote by the Senate Committee on K-12 Education came on the proposal by Sen. Toni Hellon, R-Tucson.
Hellon said nothing in existing law — or even in her proposal — would require schools to offer classes. But she said that if they do they should provide information scientifically sound and not simply designed to scare students.
But foes of the measure said SB1077 is really a part of a political agenda of organizations which do not like the prevalence of programs which teach students that abstinence is the only true way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Current law lets school districts provide sex education to students in grades seven through 12. Schools also may provide all students in all grades with information about AIDS and the HIV virus that causes the disease.
Each district is free to develop its own course of study.
The law also says that programs must promote abstinence and discourage drug abuse. And courses cannot portray homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle or suggest there are safe methods of homosexual sex.
Hellon’s legislation said any information would have to be "supported by the
weight of research conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods.’’ It also would have to be recognized as "accurate and objective’’ by "leading professional organizations and agencies.’’
Cathi Herrod, lobbyist for the Center for Arizona Policy, questioned what would be considered information supported by research.
Herrod said there are "leading professional organizations’’ on both sides of the debate about what is appropriate, leaving local districts to choose which research they decide to accept.
But Jessica Medwied-Savage, a student at St. Gregory’s Preparatory School in Tucson, said students sometimes are taught incorrect things.
She said that, as a kindergartner at Canyon View Elementary School in the Catalina Foothills Unified School District, a teacher left her with the impression that "if I touched another student or if another student touched me I would get HIV/AIDS.’’ She said those kinds of messages reduce the credibility of schools.