Testimony in opposition to HO579 from Julie Lynde, Director, Family Policy Alliance of Idaho
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. My name is Julie Lynde. I’m a policy director for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho, formerly Cornerstone Family Council. Our mission statement and vision statement is we want an Idaho where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished.
It’s a privilege to talk to you today about House Bill 579, and I want to thank Chairman VanOrden for her heart and her vision for Idaho students.
I’m grateful to places like Marian-Pritchard and I want to applaud Hannah for her tenacity and perseverance and work and her heart for fellow young women in Idaho.
This is a very important conversation that advocates a very serious change, however, it’s based on an assumption as to why districts are or are not teaching sex education. It’s with a heavy heart today that I come to you and urge your ‘no’ vote on House Bill 579. I understand the statistics that we’ve heard, and I’ve read those multiple times.
Our objections are not to the teaching of sex education. Our objections include the negative impact House Bill 579 has on parental rights, the lack of specific guidelines, methods, and the lack of safeguards for children. House Bill 579 is breathtaking in its attack on the very structure that teachers consider the most important variable to academic success, the family. Parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children. Protecting this right is even more important when it comes to how and when children are taught about human reproduction.
This is not antiquated language. Removing the language in prior code and calling it antiquated sets back parental rights. Idaho statute 32-10-10 sets out parental rights and responsibilities. Idaho code 33-1608-1611 aligns with this statute as to the importance of the school accompanying the parents and the church, not the other way around. House Bill 579 completely abandons the emphasis on the role of parents, the home, and the church in providing moral instruction on sex education. We can’t just hope that families play a role, we have to set the standard.
Even worse, the language actually undermines the recognition of parental rights contained in current law. Specifically, current law recognizes that “primary responsibility for family life and sex education including moral responsibility rests upon the home, and that schools can only complement and supplement those standards which are established in the family.”
Yes, teachers need clarity, and so do our students. Basing policy on anecdotal evidence can be dangerous, and House Bill 579 takes a dangerous step backwards and puts parents and families on par with undefined random community groups that are not required to have any association with the school district. What are the community values that stem from these random community groups? Do we really want to promote this with no preference given to standards and values established in the family? House Bill 579 obstructs parent’s ability to direct their children’s education and increases the risk for children. Should Idaho parents just sit back and relinquish our fundamental right to the primary responsibility of teaching our children about family, life, sex education, and moral responsibility?
There is no method laid out in the bill for actually involving families in constructing the curriculum to be taught to children. There are also no real guidelines for what districts could decide to teach children, besides that the information be “medically accurate”. And there’s no definition of what exactly is being taught in the classroom. A lot of information could be “medically accurate” but not appropriate for the age group or for the way it’s introduced. This leaves the door open to the adoption of standards and curricula that are not aligned with the values of most Idahoans, and as I listened to the proponents of the bill, I think it’s not aligned with their goal either.
In House Bill 579 there are no limitations on how young a child could be to receive sexual education. The decision of what to teach, and when to teach this information is left wholly up to the district. And when is this information given to parents, if ever? There is no requirement that the information taught be age appropriate, and this is an important aspect to many bills in other states, like in Arizona, for example.
If we want to improve this section of code perhaps we could allow the parent to opt-in. Do we as parents want to send our kids off to school and wonder?
Anyone who opposed House Bill 414 should oppose House Bill 579, not based on any nefarious intent, because I believe the intent has been heartfelt. However, these are virtually the same bill. The only difference is that House Bill 579 inserts a legally meaningless reference to “the importance of families in all aspects of their children’s education and promotes a strong school-home connection to support the implementation of sex education curriculum that respects community values and encourages family communication.”
What is the root cause of teen pregnancy? Is it just what is being taught in schools, or is it other stuff? Is it the culture? Can we really lay this at the doorstep of the classroom?
I must ask, what is the value at to silence the voice of parents and the faith community when it comes to an issue that is in such great need of them.
We urge your ‘no’ vote on House Bill 579.
Testimony in opposition to HO579 from Paul Thompson, Twin Falls Pastor
Thank you, Representative McDonald. My name is Paul Thompson. I live in Twin Falls, Idaho. I’m speaking for myself, and for my wife, and the church that I pastor in Twin Falls, Idaho. And so, education committee, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to address you, on any matter. I count that as a great privilege that we embrace and are grateful to have.
So, where I would share many of the same concerns that have already been presented to you on behalf and in favor of such a bill as this — like Miss Lynde, I come today to appeal to you to not pass and not give support of House Bill 579, for many of the same reasons that have already been listed to you, so I want to respect the request that you’ve made to us on that matter. Maybe just to highlight a couple of my significant concerns of the wording of the language of the bill.
I would ask you – what part of the current Idaho code, Sections 33-1608 through 33-1611 would this bill classify, or do you classify, as “antiquated language”? The words that have been removed from the current code and included in the proposed House Billl 579 are words like “church”, it’s been removed, “morality” has been removed, “the miracle of life” has been removed, and “self-discipline” has been removed. I say, what of those words are antiquated? Do we want to be the kind of people that will pass on to another generation that these values, that we hold dear, are “antiquated”?
I don’t think that that’s the intent. Hearing the testimony, I’m convinced the intent is as genuine as you would find anywhere, and I would be in agreement with the intent of what we want to do in this matter. I, too, am not opposed to sex education – I do think that we must walk extremely careful here, and I plead with you not to pass this on any further than here, simply because I don’t think that this really addresses the greater concern that there is, and the greater shared concern that we as citizens of the state of Idaho share with you, and with those who have presented here.
I’ll skip most everything else I had, because Miss Lynde said it much more articulately, I think, than I could have. I would finally say to you, though, in my comparison and reading of what’s been presented, to say that “the state of Idaho acknowledges the importance of families”, is actually weaker language than what currently is in the state of Idaho that says “the state of Idaho believes that the primary responsibility for family life and sex education, including moral responsibility, rests upon home and church”. That’s strong language. The new language, I fear, is much weaker. Not to suggest the intent is any weaker, I just think the language is weaker.
The current law that we have, indeed, may be old as far as dating goes (1970). It says that “the legislature of the state of Idaho believes that the primary responsibility for family life and sex education, including moral responsibility, rests upon home and church, and the schools can only complement and supplement those standards which are established in the family”. The last great concern that I have here is to say school districts, in this new law, this new proposal, to say that school districts “shall involve families and community groups” is different than saying the programs should supplement the work of the home and the church. That’s radically different language. Again, it’s not to question the intent, but its different language.
Our current law, in addressing that, says the program should “supplement the work in the home and the church in giving youth the specific physiological information for understanding sex and its relation to the miracle of life, including knowledge of the power of the sex drive and the necessity of controlling that drive by self-discipline”.
That’s strong language. That’s helpful language, actually.
I tell parents all the time that if you’re not teaching your children about sexuality, somebody else is, and I don’t trust anybody else to do this but families. It’s true, not all families are doing this, and so we must address the matter. And so, I’m pleased that we would address it, but I would say, and my appeal to you would be, this is not the right language that we want. The church, the missing language of the church is also of concern to me. To just simply put the church in language as “community groups” is a communication that I do not think you want to communicate to the state of Idaho. The church is valuable, and it’s significant in this matter.
And so, my final, same, initial appeal to you, a reasonable appeal to you, is to not pass House Bill 579 any further than this committee. Don’t communicate to this current generation that “family”, “church”, “morality”, “discipline”, and “the miracle of life” are antiquated terms. And also, don’t communicate to this current generation that church and family are not capable of these duties. I appeal to you, do not pass this on.
Testimony in favor of HO579 from Joy McKinnon, Representative from National Organization for Women (NOW)
Hello Chairman, members of the committee. My name is Joy McKinnon. I’m speaking today on behalf of the members of Southwest Idaho Chapter of NOW, National Organization for Women, and I come to you also as a mother of two little girls that are going to eventually need accurate sex education as they grow older.
There is one part of the presentation that struck me and I didn’t know, is that our state average of young women that are reporting non-consensual sex is higher than the national average, and that means that there’s a breakdown somewhere in communicating what consent is, at home, and what consent for sexual activity is, and I think that updating our standards is really important with things like that.
Research has consistently shown that Comprehensive Sex Education reduces unplanned pregnancy, reduces exposure to STD’s and delays, actually delays, sexual initiation and reduces frequency — that would reduce the number of abortions and the number of babies born to teen mothers.
But, from the 70s, there wasn’t even the internet, when this this original bill was. So now we have, like Nancy said, sexting, and internet, and porn, and we also need to be teaching our children what is a healthy relationship, and with the #metoo movement that everyone is pretty much aware of, I’m sure, we’ve got a lot of adults who don’t even know what consent is, and I’m sure they’re not properly teaching their children.
Now, I know that I teach my children. They’re going to get a very good sex education from me at home, but there are parents that there’s just a breakdown, and I think that we do need to have a particular standard for those children that do fall in the cracks, because there are plenty of parents that are teaching their children moral values, and I appreciate that, but I think that this bill would help support the parents that are, and they have a complete voice to participate to participate in that and make sure that their morals and values are being taught and supported in the school, but this will also support the children who aren’t getting those values and morals taught and that education taught at home. So, I urge you to please vote ‘yes’ on HB579.