New Hampshire has the distinction of being one America’s best educated states, with stellar college graduation rates and students achieving the highest SAT and ACT scores in the country. But Granite State lawmakers may want to brush up on their knowledge about public health and sex education.
According to the Concord Monitor, State Rep. Ralph Boehm (R-NH) introduced a bill to the House Education Committee yesterday that would allow parents to pull their children out of health or sex ed lessons for any reason at all. While New Hampshire law already allows parents to object to certain lesson plans on religious grounds, the proposed HB 161’s wording causes some lawmakers to worry it would give parents carte blanche over the crucial public health education their children receive, and veto power over the educators who provide it:
“In a lot of school districts, this is already the policy,” Boehm said yesterday. “And a lot of schools say it’s up to the parent. But the law says it must be a religious objection.”
Boehm has the support of Rep. Joe Pitre, a Rochester Republican, and Rep. Rick Ladd, a Grafton Republican who’s also a retired school principal. Although, Ladd said he’d like Boehm’s bill rewritten to require parents to give a “justifiable” reason for objecting.
“It can’t be, ‘I walk into the classroom and I don’t really like that teacher, so I’m just going to opt out,’ ” Ladd said.[…]
Rep. Judith Spang, a Durham Democrat on the committee, expressed similar concerns. She talked about the intersection of public health education and sex education and worried that students could be excused from health classes on preventing sexually transmitted diseases under the bill and existing law.
But buoyed by the conservative religious right’s intensive lobbying, Republican state lawmakers have kept abstinence-only programs the norm and comprehensive sex education programs optional, making America more regressive on sex education policy than many Catholic countries. It should come as no surprise that American youth are woefully ignorant about sexual health and safety as a consequence.
Luckily, the trend may be limited. Recent surveys have shown that even Evangelical youth are moving away from an anti-contraception and anti-sex education mindset.