Shawnee Mission parent pushes to change sex education in Kansas

A controversial sex education poster in a Shawnee Mission District classroom could soon lead to a change in Kansas law.

A growing group of parents protested the "How Do I Express My Sexual Feelings?" poster after a teacher displayed it on a classroom door at Hocker Grove Middle School.
               
The district took it out of the sex ed curriculum while it decides what to do. But some Hocker Grove parents said a change in state law is needed.
               
Now, Kansas lawmakers are considering two bills, one that could punish an educator, librarian or school principal for posting obscene material.

Hocker Grove Middle School parent Mark Ellis said a clause in current law protects materials for education. He said right now schools can ignore community standards materials what might be considered harmful to minors.

Ellis pushed a second bill that requires parents agree to give their child permission to "opt-in" before taking a sex ed class.

"I think the school should say we're teaching this, this and this. Do you agree it not? Opt your child in or out," Ellis said.

But KU Social Welfare Professor Emeritus Dennis Dailey said, make no mistake, a 13-year-old knows more than parents think they do.

"That is remarkably condescending; it sells young people short dramatically. Most of them already know about this stuff and are forming their beliefs and attitudes already. This is not new shocking information to these kids, it may be to their parents," Dailey said.

He said it is the reason why sex education should start early, to give a child with such exposure these days some perspective. Ignoring that, he said, is what's obscene.

Kansas lawmakers are expected to vote the "opt-in" bill out of a House committee in the next week but Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican of Wichita, said the "content harmful to minors" needs to be reworked and is unclear if it will make it to the Senate floor for a full hearing.

Opponents like the ACLU said it amounts to broad brush censorship and puts educators, who might accidently expose obscene material, in a vulnerable position.

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