Nebraska: Bill Would Require Sex Education
February 3, 2011
A hearing for a bill that would require Nebraska schools to provide comprehensive sex education is scheduled for Feb. 8. Under LB 192, sponsored by state Sen. Brenda Council, schools would have to offer age-appropriate and medically accurate instruction that addresses proper contraceptive use and teaches the benefits of abstinence. Instruction materials must not "promote bias" and teachers should "answer in good faith any questions initiated by a student that is germane to the material of the course," the bill states.
Council said the high rates of HIV and other STDs among young people in Douglas County underscore the need for LB 192. The county's chlamydia rate has ranked higher than both the national and state rates since 1995. "If you look at the population that's being infected in Douglas County, you're looking at 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds," she said.
In 1997, Nebraska's education board adopted a policy supporting an "abstinence approach" to sex education, though it also acknowledged "the right of school districts to maintain local control."
Omaha Public Schools has taught comprehensive sex education, including lessons on contraceptives, since the mid-1980s. But Council, a former OPS board member, said the messages are not sinking in. Too many young men rely on medical treatment for STDs instead of using protection such as condoms, she noted.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland officials support LB 192. A state mandate would ensure that sex education is consistent between districts, said Peggy Olson, a Lincoln-based health educator for Planned Parenthood.
But the Legislature has a longstanding practice of leaving curriculum decisions to local school districts, said John Bonaiuto, executive director of the Nebraska Association of School Boards, which has not taken a position on LB 192. "I think it's best for the Legislature to stay at the 30,000-foot level," he said.
01.30.2011; Joe Dejka
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