The Minnesota House Education Policy Committee held its first hearing Friday for a bill that would require public-school teachers to discuss “healthy relationships, including relationships involving diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in the classroom.”
Rep. Todd Lippert (D-Northfield), a freshman House member and lead sponsor of the bill, said Friday that his legislation would create “instruction that is medically accurate and developmentally appropriate in regards to human anatomy, reproduction, and sexual development.”
“But it is also time for us to teach a culture of consent and bodily autonomy—giving our youth the tools they need to be treating themselves and others with respect, giving our youth the tools they need to build healthier relationships and in time, healthier families,” said Lippert, who is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. “It is also time that we recognize in school curriculum that our youth and their families are diverse when it comes to sexual identity.”
As The Minnesota Sun previously reported, his bill would require the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education to develop “one or more model comprehensive sexual education programs for elementary and secondary school students.”
This “model program” must include instruction on “consent, bodily autonomy, and healthy relationships, including relationships involving diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.”
During Friday’s hearing, Lippert argued that LGBTQ students deserve “a sexual health curriculum that acknowledges that they exist and that will provide them with information that will help them live healthier, safer lives in relationship with others.”
“A comprehensive sexual health program is inclusive. Abstinence will be a part of the curriculum, and so will accurate, developmentally appropriate information about contraceptive use,” Lippert continued.
“A sexual health curriculum that acknowledges the identity of the GLBTQ community and their relationships will be a significant step forward in reducing the shame that many in the GLBTQ community feel and a step forward for health for all of our youth,” he added.
Several community members testified in favor the bill, including a Roseville Area High School freshman named Ash.
“I identify as genderqueer non-binary panromantic asexual. None of these things have ever been taught in any of my health classes. I realized that I could be non-binary when I met a couple of non-binary people at a summer camp that I went to,” Ash said.
Ash went on to say that they have to email teachers “before every class to make sure that they know what genderqueer and non-binary is, and to tell them my pronouns.”
“My sex-ed has been abstinence only,” Ash said. “It’s really important for kids to have comprehensive sex education because otherwise they will turn to the internet, which is not always reliable, and they will have unsafe experiences.”
Some Republicans, such as Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), said the bill was a “huge mandate and an intrusion into what different communities and different school districts value for their children.”
The Education Policy Committee has not yet voted on Lippert’s bill, though it could be included in a larger education bill.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “House Education Policy Committee” by MNHouseInfo.