We are hearing a lot of questions from our families about what the recently approved Senate Bill (SB) 5395 means for sex and health education in our schools.
Here is a breakdown of what is and is not changing in our schools under the new law.
WHAT IS CHANGING?
- Public schools must teach “affirmative consent” to older students. This new requirement is intended to help students recognize inappropriate behavior and their right to reject it. The law does not provide lesson plans or other details for this new requirement, meaning it will be up to individual school districts to determine how it is taught.
WHAT IS NOT CHANGING?
- The district will still have local control and flexibility to determine what best meets the needs of students and families.
- The district will still have the authority to choose its own curricula, materials, and speakers. While the state provides a list of comprehensive sexual health education curricula, the district is not required to adopt any of them.
- Students will continue to be taught, beginning in middle school, that abstinence is the most effective method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- The district will continue to have the authority to determine what information is age appropriate.
- Parents will still have the right to review curricula and opt their children out of all or any portion. Districts will still be required to grant a parent request to excuse their child from a sex education curriculum.
- Curricula must encourage healthy relationships based on mutual respect and free from violence, coercion, and intimidation.
- The district will still use curricula aligned with past guidelines for sexual health information and disease prevention and the state’s health and physical education K–12 learning standards. Districts are obligated by law only to teach HIV prevention (beginning in grade 5), CPR, and the use of external defibrillators.
- The district will still teach information that is medically and scientifically accurate, and inclusive for all students regardless of protected class status.
- The district will continue to teach this information once between grades K–3, once between grades 4–5, twice between grades 6–8, and twice between grades 9–12.
In January of 2021, the district began the process of reviewing standards for K-12 Health and Physical Education, including sex education, for implementation in the 2022 – 2023 school year. This review will include thorough opportunities for teachers and community members to participate in and give input into the curricula and the instructional materials being considered.