High School Students Lobby Legislators for Saran-Wrap Sex Ed Bill

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/02/22/high-school-students-lobby-legislators-for-saran-wrap-sex-ed-bill/

By Colin A. Young
State House News Service

BOSTON — The lead House sponsors of a bill requiring that sexual health education be “medically accurate, age-appropriate” pumped up high school students lobbying for the bill Thursday but acknowledged the bill’s prospects in the House this session are uncertain.

State Representatives James O’Day and Paul Brodeur, both chairmen in Speaker Robert DeLeo’s House, rallied with about 80 students participating in a Planned Parenthood lobby day at the Massachusetts State House. Brodeur, who was first elected in 2010, told the students the bill had “been around longer than I’ve been in the Legislature,” and O’Day emphatically said, “we absolutely have to get this bill passed this session.”

The Massachusetts Senate in July approved the bill by a 31-6 vote and the bill has been before the House Ways and Means Committee ever since.

Asked if they expect to see the bill reach the House floor before the end of formal sessions in July, both O’Day and Brodeur chuckled and said, “We certainly hope so.” The House Ways and Means Committee, led by Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The bill (S 2128) would require that school districts offering sex education adopt a policy ensuring parental notification, allow parents to opt their children out, and provide curriculum “appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

O’Day and Brodeur said part of what has stalled the bill is that it deals with issues that many people are uncomfortable talking about.

“Everything is a process and these are sensitive, challenging issues that involve intimacy, human relations, and how parents and families get along,” Brodeur said. He added, “and it’s been a grind because we need to educate folks about what we’re trying to do and what we’re not trying to do.”

O’Day said opponents of the bill — he singled out “the right, the conservative right, the religious right” — have used misinformation to attack the legislation and have led others to believe the bill would do things O’Day said it would not.

“Every time that there seems to be a move forward on this bill, there comes a rash of emails mostly with inaccurate information,” he said. “They fill up all of our email inboxes with all this misinformation and it gets a lot louder than what we’ve been able to do so far.”

O’Day, who worked for 25 years as a social worker in Worcester before joining the Legislature, cited a frequent talking point from opponents who think the sex ed contemplated by the bill would instruct teens to use saran wrap when a condom is unavailable. He said the bill is about the things that form the “underpinning” of healthy human relationships.

“People really did get all twisted up over the idea that there is some kind of sexual connotation going on with this,” he said. “But it’s about consent, it’s about conflict resolution, it’s about being appropriate and polite and respectful.”