Planned Parenthood-Friendly Sex-Ed Mandate Passes Massachusetts Senate

Printed from:

BOSTON — As it did in 2015, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill nearly entirely along party lines on Thursday dictating how school districts teach sex education; and just like two years ago, the biggest sticking point for the bill’s opponents was the lack of an opt-in stipulation for parents and guardians.  

Unlike in 2015, however, it is likely this version of the bill will reach the House floor for a vote, but it remains to be seen if lawmakers on the other side of the State House attach the failed parental opt-in amendment touted Thursday by House Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Following the 31-6 vote in favor that saw the only Democratic opposition come from state Senator Michael Rush of West Roxbury, Tarr praised the “robust and healthy debate” that transpired Thursday afternoon but expressed “hope that as it makes its way through the legislative process” that lawmakers outside the Senate will wind up adopting proposals like a parental consent stipulation.

The bill’s lead sponsor, state Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) took issue with Tarr’s opt-in proposal.

“This amendment would gut the bill,” DiDomenico claimed, noting that the legislation already features an opt-out amendment for both parents and school districts. “This amendment would effectively take all the work we put together and throw it out the window.

“We do not have opt-in for science, math, English — we don’t have any opt-in initiative for any other subjects in our schools — this subject in particular could save lives.”

Other Democrats who spoke out in opposition to Tarr’s amendment included state Senator John Keenan of Quincy, Worcester’s Harriet Chandler, and Boston’s Sonia Chang-Diaz. Keenan and Chang-Diaz added that a parental consent requirement would add an unnecessary level of bureaucracy, with Keenan claiming that it “would require school districts to chase down the parents of every single student” while Chang-Diaz noting that “many of my colleagues in the chamber in the minority are avid proponents of small streamlined government.”

Chandler claimed that an opt-in provision would result in a “very limited number of people who would be taking advantage of it.”

“The alternative of what we’re talking about is our children learning about these behaviors from what they hear on the school bus or read on the Internet,” she added.

State Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), responding to Keenan’s point, used student field trips as an example of opt-in protocol.

“I don’t think that’s an impossible hurdle to overcome,” he said. “The reality is that asking parents if they’re comfortable with this or not is not a stretch by any means.”

Tarr appeared to take issue with the claim linking parental approval to an added layer of bureaucracy.

“Well well well, it is interesting that some of these folks have stood at this microphone and suggested somehow that obtaining parental consent is so burdensome that we shouldn’t follow through with this,” Tarr quipped. “Suggesting that the role of a parent should be subordinate to the role of bureaucracy, now that’s a deeply concerning thought.”

Tarr also challenged DiDomenico’s claim that an opt-in provision would “gut the bill.”

“That somehow this bill is jeopardized by the fact that we might want to involve parents in the decision making — what does that suggest about the priorities of the bill?” Tarr questioned. “It suggests that somehow we ought to subordinate the role of the parent to the role of the state.

“It’s also been suggested that we don’t have opt-in provisions for math, science, and other things, well that is true, but we also don’t have opt-out provisions for those things, because they don’t fit the same matter as the subject matter that we’re discussing here.”

Conservative organizations, including the Massachusetts Family Institute, are vehemently opposed to the bill over the proposed curriculum’s subject matter, which suggests that instruction regarding sexual aspects such as anal intercourse is age-appropriate for children as young as 12. Some of the instructional material approved by state education officials was created by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

“If you have to have an affirmative act from a parent in order to go on a school trip, should you not have to have the affirmative act of a parent to be involved in education that involves morality, subjective judgment, and important health matters?” Tarr said. “I think the matter speaks for itself.”

DiDomenico responded to Tarr’s argument by noting he is not looking to subvert the role of parents and countered that he “would put this in the same category as English, math, and science.”

“In some respects I’d put it ahead of those subjects,” DiDomenico added. “There are life-ending, life-long consequences, and a critical mistake can change their lives forever.”

State Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) also spoke, mentioning an incident in which her older sister became pregnant during high school.

“Getting married at age 17 locked her into a life of virtual poverty,” L’Italien said. “I wish there had been accurate health information when she was a student back in the ’70s, I think her life might have changed dramatically.

“There are times when government needs to be proactive, and protective, and this is one of those situations.”

State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) did not speak during the debate over Tarr’s amendment but was vocal on social media:


Eldridge also challenged another individual who chimed in during his Twitter rant, saying she believes adding prior parental permission to be a sound suggestion:

Eldridge, however, neglected to mention that state Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) voted against Tarr’s amendment while four Democrats (Senators Joan Lovely of Salem, Michael Moore of Millbury, Rush, and Walter Timilty of Milton) voted in support of it.

Tarr’s amendment failed on a 9-29 vote.

Following the final vote to pass the bill, Massachusetts Family Institute Executive Director Andrew Beckwith expressed his disappointment when reached by a New Boston Post reporter.

“Apparently, a majority of state senators don’t trust their local school committees to decide what their students should be taught about sex,” he said, referring to the bill’s provision that while local school districts can choose not to offer sex education, they apparently cannot pick and choose which aspects to teach and what ages are appropriate for children to learn them. “Parents and educators should be outraged.

“If you texted a quote from some of the material deemed ‘age appropriate’ for seventh graders under this bill to an actual 12-year old, you would likely go to jail.”