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Sex Education Bill Advances After Marathon Hearing At State Capitol

Hundreds of parents, teachers and students signed up to testify about the bill, which aims to make sexual education programs more comprehensive.
Scott Franz
/
Capitol Coverage
Hundreds of parents, teachers and students signed up to testify about the bill, which aims to make sexual education programs more comprehensive.

Seven Colorado Democrats advanced a comprehensive sexual education bill at the State Capitol on Wednesday, after a contentious hearing that ended just before midnight. The hearing included testimony from dozens of opponents and a flurry of attempted Republican amendments to the bill.

The legislation aims to expand sexual education curriculum at public schools to include such topics as consent, birth control and STD prevention.

It would also use $1 million of state funds to help schools expand their sex ed curriculum.

Some opponents of the bill fear lawmakers are trying to get involved with curriculum that should be overseen by parents and individual school districts.

"We need to be asking the public what they think needs to be taught, not telling them what needs to be taught," Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, said before he opposed the bill.

Catlin also noted several priests and religious groups testified against the legislation.

"There is a deeply spiritual component to this, and we as a state are stepping into that," he said. "That is my biggest concern."

The Democrats on the Health and Insurance Committee view the legislation differently.

They said it will help teach students about positive LGBT relationships and help prevent sexual assaults.

The committee also heard from several students who said their current sexual education lessons aren't comprehensive enough.

"I think the overwhelming majority of the young people who spoke tonight said the sex education in their school is lacking," said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton.

The 10-hour hearing drew hundreds of parents, teachers and students to the Capitol building. Some drove from places as far away as Lamar, near the Kansas border, to testify. People unable to get a seat in the hearing room took up every spare seat and bench in the basement of the building as they listened to the testimony on their phones.

State law currently prohibits public schools from teaching abstinence-only sexual education. Schools are not required to teach sex ed at all, but if they do, the state says it must be comprehensive.

Republicans on the committee tried to amend the bill several times. One amendment would have left the curriculum decisions up to individual school boards.

The bill passed on a party line vote, with the four Republicans on the committee opposed.

It now heads to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Eleven public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

Copyright 2019 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
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