Parents must retain rights of opt-in requirement

As a parent of five children, including four in the Clark County School District, I have attended several meetings with the School Board over the past 13 months. I have listened to young people from the Nevada Teen Health Alliance, who are concerned that our current sex education curriculum is inadequate. Planned Parenthood has been represented at these meetings, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.

I don’t know many parents who are against sex education. However, there is a lot of disagreement on what the curriculum should be include. The conversation about content is ongoing and needs to be addressed.

In anticipation of the Board of Trustees meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Las Vegas Academy, I want to address what I see as the area of greatest concern among parents. We are most concerned about losing our legal right to be informed, and give permission, when our children are going to be taught sexual material at school. This right is outlined in NRS 389.065. Concerned parents in the Clark County School District are seeking to maintain their parental rights in education, through the opt-in requirement.

Opt-in requires a school to send home notification when content concerning sexual health will be taught. Parents return a signed permission slip to indicate that they have received notification and they have allowed their child to participate. Board Trustee Carolyn Edwards has stated many times that she would like the board to recommend that the requirement be changed to opt-out. Although opt-out would allow parents to remove their children from sex education, it alleviates schools from having to notify parents when sexual material would be taught in the classroom.

Recently, Edwards related an anecdotal example of a student who could not get his slip signed and was not allowed to participate in sex ed. There is no indication that these slips are not being returned by the majority of students, but Edwards acts as if permissions slips place an undue burden on parents. As a parent who gets writer’s cramp from all of the papers I must sign for various things such as school field trips, permission to watch PG-rated movies and use of computer facilities on campus, I welcome a permission slip that alerts me that sex education materials are going to be taught in class.

I value the right to decide if the material is appropriate for my child at that point in the child’s development. These sensitive subjects demand parental involvement so that the conversation about what children are learning about reproductive health can continue at home. Parents can help their children assimilate the information in the context of the values they embrace as a family.

As part of the Pledge of Achievement Strategic Plan, CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky seeks to “engage parents and families as advocates for academic achievement and lifelong learning through effective communication.” If engaging parents through communication is a tenet of student achievement, why would the Board of Trustees vote to repeal the parents’ right to know about the content and timing of sex education?

Maintaining opt-in will facilitate trust between parents and administrators, and is consistent with the district’s stated goal to keep families engaged through communication. If there is a permission slip that is not returned, teachers can reach out to that parent or guardian and have a conversation about what is happening with sex education instruction. This approach will empower parents through communication to be involved in their students’ educational process.

We seek to preserve our legal rights. Now is the time for the Board of Trustees to vote to maintain opt-in, and protect parental rights in education.

— Deborah Earl is a board member of Power2Parent, a group working to protect fundamental parental rights in the education of Nevada K-12 students.

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