Senate passes new sex ed standards

DENVER - Over the objection of Republicans, The Senate passed new standards for sex education in public schools that will open the door to teaching about homosexuality.

The state Board of Education adopted statewide standards for sex education in 2009, but the standards do not mention education tailored to traditionally overlooked groups, including gay or disabled youth.

House Bill 1081 creates grants, funded by either the federal government or private donors, for school districts that teach "comprehensive sex education." Districts with abstinence-only curricula would not have to change, but they would not be eligible for the new grants.

Senators did not voice concerns about the inclusion of same-sex relationships in sex education classes in debate over the bill Monday morning. But opponents said the bill would get in the way of parents' role to teach their kids about sex.

"This isn't about parents teaching their children. This is about the state taking over the role of parent," said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

It passed 20-15 along party lines. Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, joined other Republicans in voting no, saying she was troubled that the state Board of Education voted to oppose the bill.

"This is far beyond biology. The bill is specifically talking about relationships. I think the family is the best place for those conversations to happen," Roberts said.

No supporters rose to defend their bill Monday, but the sponsor, Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, said Friday that her bill responds to goals by the state health department to lower the teen pregnancy rate and sexually transmitted diseases.

"On average, 15 babies are born to teens in Colorado every day. That's preventable," Todd said.

Also, condom use among youth is inconsistent, and sexual violence and chlamydia infections are on the rise, she said.

It's a misnomer that providing students with scientifically accurate information will lead to more teens having sex, Todd said.

HB 1081 has already passed the House, but it must survive one more House vote for approval of Senate amendments before it goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper for final approval.