Human sexuality education should be available to all students

House Bill 19-1032, “Concerning Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” addresses a critical need for Colorado youth and, by extension, society. It brings Colorado public schools’ content standards in human sexuality education up to date and in alignment with where America is morally, socially, and culturally.

The bill 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.”

The bill adds at least seven “members of groups of people who have been or might be discriminated against” to the Department of Public Health and Environment oversight committee. It also requires priority be given to rural districts and public schools that do not currently offer comprehensive human sexuality education when selecting grant applicants.

The bill’s bi-partisan sponsors, Rep. Susan Lontine (D), Sen. Nancy Todd (D), and Sen. Don Coram (R), present researched-based evidence about sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and bullying, which they correctly point out are “pervasive, serious public health concerns.”

HB-1032 cites findings from a 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey that indicate how impacted youth are placed “at increased risk for unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, low academic performance, truancy, dropout, self-harm, and other harmful behaviors.”

From HB-1032: “9.6% of youth who identify as female, 3% of youth who identify as male, and 18.5% of youth who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse against their will. Approximately 11.1% of youth who identify as female, 7.1% of youth who identify as male, and 18.2% of youth who identify as LGB reported being physically hurt on purpose by someone they were dating. Over 28% of youth who identify as LGB reported being bullied or name-called because of their sexual orientation, and 18.6% of all youth reported being bullied on school property during the last year.”

It was incredulous to learn that Colorado is in the backwaters of both general and sexual health education. While forty-three other states mandate a general health graduation requirement, Colorado does not. In addition to a general health graduation requirement, twenty-four states and the District of Columbia mandate a sexual health graduation requirement.

Thirty-five years after the world learned about HIV and AIDS, Colorado does not require sexual health education or HIV education. Thirty-four other states and the District of Columbia, on the other hand, do.

Learned violent behaviors wreak havoc not only on depowered, marginalized groups, individuals, and their families, they also put onerous demands on and are costly to law enforcement, the judicial system, and mental and physical health care facilities. Victims of trauma due to their gender and sexual orientation can suffer lifelong disabilities, which can be avoided with interventions during theirs and their peers’ developmental stages.

In addition to skill development, a purpose of education is to acculturate. Acculturation, though, is more than fostering a love of country; it is about learning to live harmoniously in a democratic, diverse society, co-existing with peoples with differing races, ethnicities, spiritual outlooks, values, orientations, and outlooks.

School is more than about unlearning false notions about history and science; it is also about unlearning inappropriate and potentially violent behaviors. It should foster skills to help young people avoid and resolve conflict without stupidly resorting to physical and mental violence.

The statistics cited above reflect a dire need for ALL Colorado youth to have access to comprehensive human sexuality education that teaches “consent, hallmarks of safe and healthy relationships, self-acceptance, and respect for others.”

An adult approach to providing age-appropriate educational opportunities on human sexuality when a child reaches a certain level of sophistication is past due. It’s not only not rocket science, it is the morally correct thing to do.

Learn more about HB-1032 on the Colorado legislative website:  https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/bills/2019a_1032_01.pdf

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