Senate Bill 1456 in Arizona would have been one of the strictest laws regarding sex education in the country. It would have banned any and all sex education before fifth grade, and required parental approval for any related topic up to 12th grade, including the mere mention of LGBT history.
On April 21, 2021, Arizona governor Doug Ducey vetoed the bill, calling it “overly broad and vague.”
Sex education, while the name may seem simple, is a broad umbrella. It includes everything from learning about consent (such as teaching kindergartners to only hug people they know want to be hugged) to recognizing abuse, to important health education. Fifth graders are 10 years old. By that age, many girls, especially black girls, have begun to hit the early stages of puberty. To begin sex education then would neglect those girls.
The other major provision of the bill, requiring all LGBT education to be informed and opt-in, is to say that LGBT information, even just the history of treatment of LGBT people, is somehow a taboo subject, something parents should “protect” their children from. It’s an act of bigotry to make a legal distinction between education about straight history (for instance, Henry VIII murdering his wives) and LGBT history, like the Stonewall Riots or Alan Turing.
Governor Ducey didn’t veto Senate Bill 1456 for either of these reasons. He vetoed it because he felt that it would also prevent child abuse education in early grades. That’s a very solid reason, too. But it’s important that these other factors be considered, and protected in future bills regarding Arizona’s educational standards.
Gov. Ducey, along with his veto, protected by executive order Senate Bill 1456’s call for transparency, mandating that schools post any sex-education-related curriculum changes for public review and parental opt-in. Transparency is good, but the opt-in mandate means that the children who likely need this education most, those who can’t count on getting it from their parents, will be denied it at school as well.
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