On March 12th, the Oklahoma State House of Representatives rejected HB 2628, a bill that would have both required parental consent in order for students to receive sexuality education in public schools and banned non-governmental agencies that provide abortion services or information from being involved in sexuality education classes. 1;2
Requiring parental consent for sexuality education classes is known as an “opt-in policy.” Currently, Oklahoma school districts enforce an “opt-out” policy, under which schools must “provide written notification of all sexuality and HIV/AIDS-prevention classes” at which time parents can opt to remove their children from such classes.3 HB 2628, which was sponsored by Rep. George Faught (R), aimed to change this policy by requiring written parental consent for student participation in sexuality education classes.4 Opt-out policies are more preferable because they respect parental authority. In fact, studies have demonstrated that very few parents take advantage of opting their children out, thereby lowering the administrative burden of providing sex education.5
Opponents of the bill questioned the necessity of an opt-in measure.6 There was bi-partisan opposition to the bill: Rep. Ed Cannaday (D) and Rep. Doug Cox (R), highlighted the need for sexuality education in the state, citing adolescent sexual activity and teen birth rates as evidence. Almost half of Oklahoma teens report having engaged in sexual intercourse at some point during their high school years.7 Furthermore, in 2004, Oklahoma had the 8th highest teen birth rate in the nation.8
The bill would have also banned any “nongovernmental entity, organization, or agency that promotes abortions, provides abortion services, or provides information about abortion services” from being involved in sexuality education classes in public schools.9 According to both Pro-Choice Oklahoma and Get R.E.A.L. (Responsible Education About Life) Oklahoma, during the House committee meeting, the authors of bill stated the legislation was aimed at specifically banning Planned Parenthood.10 R.E.A.L. Oklahoma explained that “parents already can prevent their children from participating in any sexuality education program, including those by Planned Parenthood” and that the bill “would actually take this important decision out of the hands of families and put it squarely in the hands of anti-choice legislators who think they know what is best for everyone.”11
Although the bill was rejected, it failed by only a single vote of 51-50, including nine dissenting votes from Republicans. Rep. Faught has held the bill for reconsideration, meaning it may be presented again later in the session. Advocates in the state are urging Oklahoma residents to contact their representatives in opposition to this harmful bill.
“Oklahoma’s young people need and deserve state policymaker’s to support real sex education,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “This bill is right wing extremism at its ugly worst and only creates hurdles and barriers between young people and the information they need to navigate their teen years and become healthy adults.”
- “Oklahoma House defeats ‘opt in’ sex ed measure.” Muskogee Phoenix Associated Press. 13 March 2008, accessed 31 March 2008, http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/local/local_story_073003135.html.
- Oklahoma House Bill 2628, http://www.ok.gov/launch.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lsb.state.ok.us%2F.
- Oklahoma: Sexuality Education Law & Policy: SIECUS State Profiles. Fiscal Year 2006 Edition.
- Oklahoma House Bill 2628
- “Oklahoma House Rejects Bill Requiring Parental Consent Before Minors Receive Sex Education.” Medical News Today. 17 March 2008, accessed 31 March 2008, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/100732.php.
- Danice K. Eaton, et al., “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2005,” Surveillance Summaries, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 55, no. SS-5 (9 June 2006): 1-108, accessed 17 April 2008, http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm.
- Kaiser State Health Fact. accessed 8 April 2008, http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=37&cat=2&sub=11&yr=14&typ=3&sort=n&o=d.
- Oklahoma House Bill 2628
- “Get R.E.A.L OK Blog.” 25 February 2008, accessed 3 April 2008, http://getrealoklahoma.blogspot.com/2008/02/please-oppose-hb-2628-your-voice-needs.html.