Emotional, sometimes-graphic debate dominated the Iowa Senate Tuesday night, before lawmakers gave final approval to legislation governing sex education in Iowa schools. By a vote of 30-to-19, the Senate agreed to require all materials in human growth and development classes to be medically accurate.
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says schools and parents can still control what is taught in sex ed classes. Bolkcom says "Local school boards and parents will decide, as they always have, what materials will be used. The difference now is that those materials are going to have to be research-based and medically-accurate."
Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, read from one school’s curriculum, giving explicit instructions on the use of condoms, which Zaun found completely objectionable. Zaun says: "This is curriculum, practicing proper use of the condom. It tells the teachers what their instructions are. If that isn’t shocking enough to you, I am telling you, Iowans, when they see this garbage that we’re going to try to teach our students, it’s wrong."
Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, expressed strong opposition to some materials currently in use, including explicit instruction in condom use. Boettger says, "I have a close acquaintance who works in the office of one of our large banks and they have seen a large increase in the number of people that are taking out loans to send their kids to private school because they’re fed up with some stuff like this."
Critics of the bill feared the new requirement will make schools turn against abstinence instruction, but the bill’s supporters say abstinence-only instruction will continue to be an option. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, says it will just have to be medically accurate. Quirmbach says, "What the bill does do is very simply, it says that whenever factual material is taught, that material must be true. How could we want it to be anything else?"
The bill’s supporters cited examples of medically inaccurate materials presented in classrooms. They said parents can still have their children opt out of sex ed classes even with the new legislation, which Governor Culver is expected to sign. Under the bill, instruction on the sexually-transmitted HPV virus, which is currently required in high school, would be mandated in junior high.