DENVER (CBS4) – After 10 hours of testimony from more than 300 people, a Colorado house committee voted 7-4 in favor of a bill late Wednesday night that would change how sex education is taught at public schools in the state. With Democrats in the majority in the Colorado Legislature and the governor’s seat, this is a move to peel back some of the legislation Republicans put in place.
It took several overflow rooms and hallway space to house the massive crowds present for the House Health and Insurance Committee hearing at the Colorado State Capitol Wednesday and debate on the bill continued long into the night.
If it ultimately ends up passing, the bill would get rid of a waiver that lets public charter schools pick out their sex ed criteria. It also funds a grant program for schools that lack resources to teach human sexuality.
It expands on LGBTQ relationships and would ban the abstinence-only approach to teaching about sex.
Parents who oppose the bill say they would pull their children out of school if abstinence isn’t the focus.
“Sex, sex, sex. Gratification should be the name of the curriculum,” one opponent told lawmakers. “Schools teach history and social studies and languages and shop and other things. And that’s what they should be teaching, but they should stay out of sex that belongs to family and not to the school district!”
Wednesday was the first time 17-year-old Luke Walker had written a statement to read in front of any committee, but after waiting for several hours, he and his family decided turn the statement in for the record and head home.
Walker attends a charter school in Jefferson County along with his five siblings. Currently, the school has a sex education curriculum, which meets state standards. It teaches abstinence as well as forms of contraception. For the Walkers this is enough.
If the bill passes, the school will have to accept the more comprehensive curriculum outlined in the bill or teach nothing at all.
His parents are prepared to pull their kids out of the sex education classes if the school accepts the curriculum.
“I do think it’s okay for there to be some knowledge about sex, but I feel like this bill is pushing an agenda and like an acceptance for all this and I feel like it should be up to the parents to tell their kids what’s right and wrong,” said Walker.
Supporters say the teaching is essential.
“To me, having a course where LGBT students get the proper education, get the proper tools, where they feel safe to ask the questions that they need answered without a fear of somebody making fun of them for asking it, it’s something really important to me,” said Joseph Shelton.
Shelton traveled from Colorado Springs with his partner to share his story.
“I remember being in school and I was afraid to ask the questions because I was afraid somebody might make some sort of homophobic comment toward me,” he said.
Under a portion of the bill, Lessons about human sexuality could not “explicitly or implicitly” endorse a particular religious ideology. The lessons also are not allowed to include “shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools” or exclude “the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.”
The bill will now head to the House Appropriations Committee.