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Colorado legislators seek to ban abstinence-only sex ed classes

If HB19-1032 passes, it would scrap courses that teach abstinence only.

DENVER — State legislators in Colorado will once again debate the role of sex education in classrooms on Wednesday.

If a new contentious bill, HB19-1032, becomes law, school districts who choose to provide sex ed courses would be required to teach a comprehensive curriculum, which means more options for students other than abstinence. 

Most schools in the state have done so after a similar law was passed in 2013, but there were some -- including charter and rural schools -- that opted out.

"The bill clarifies content requirements for public schools that offer comprehensive human sexuality education and prohibits instruction from explicitly or implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals," a summary of the bill reads in part.

"We want to make sure kids understand that there are different relationship models beside just heterosexual -- that there are people who are lesbian, gay and bisexual," Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver), one of the bill's primary sponsors, said. 

The bill comes with its fair share of opposition, including Jeff Johnston, a culture and policy analyst for Focus on the Family based in Colorado Springs.

"I believe it's unconstitutional," Johnston said. "Colorado State Constitution makes it clear that local districts will control the instruction in public schools in their districts and this gives control to the state."

Johnston plans to testify against the bill at its first hearing at the State Capitol on Wednesday.

"The legislation takes deeply-held beliefs about human sexuality and what it means to be male and female -- and it mandates that schools teach an ideology that opposes this," Johnston said. "So, our question is why should the State seek to impose an ideology on those who disagree?"

Johnston argued the bill also violates some people's religious beliefs, but Representative Lontine disagreed and said it's "not a school district's place to teach any kind of religious beliefs in our school."

"I think it's more about making sure kids understand healthy relationships and boundaries," Lontine said.

She said classes would also be required to have conversations about consent which is something she said has never been done before.

The bill also seeks $1 million dollars a year to create a grant for smaller school districts who can't afford these kinds of programs.

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