Mass. Senate approves sex ed bill

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BOSTON — The Democratic-controlled state Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of An Act Relative to Healthy Youth (S 2048), a measure to require school districts that provide sex education lessons to formulate those lessons based on the Massachusetts Health Curriculum Framework.

The bill, which passed the Senate 32-6, does not force school districts to provide sex education, but requires those that do to provide students with “medically accurate, age-appropriate” material.  Under the bill, curricula consistent with material in the Massachusetts Health Curriculum Framework is automatically presumed to be in compliance with this requirement.

The bill also requires schools to teach “the benefits of abstinence and delaying sexual activity” and requires that schools provide parents an opportunity to opt-out of sex ed lessons.

But conservative groups nevertheless opposed to the bill, arguing that the measure strips control from local school boards and superintendents. Currently, local school boards and superintendents are free to craft their own health curricula or use the model provided by the state.

An adopted amendment filed by senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr requires that school districts provide parents at least 30 days to review materials and opt-out, if they so choose, before any sex-related lessons begin. Activists had hoped the Senate would adopt an “opt-in” amendment to the legislation, which would have required schools to get affirmative parental consent before moving forward with the lessons.

The measure is supported by Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.