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Bill to limit sexual content in PA schools heading to Senate

The bills address the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools and aims to include parents in the conversation.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Editors note: The above video is from June 15. 

Two bills aimed at addressing gender identify and sexual orientation in schools are on their way to the Pennsylvania Senate after passing the Education Committee.

The bills, sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13) and Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) will address sex and gender discussions inside schools. The proposals are in response to concerns the senators have allegedly received about these topics being discussed prematurely in schools. 

The first proposal, Senate Bill 1277, would require schools to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum and materials and notify parents that their child's coursework includes such content.  

The second proposal, Senate Bill 1278, would prohibit classroom instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students. This is consistent with the timeline for the existing academic standards on general sex education beginning, which is generally sixth grade. 

Martin and Aument stated that they have heard multiple complaints about schools and teachers withholding information from parents about sex-related topics, including gender identity and sexual orientation. 

"While we may not agree on what moral, ideological, and religious values to teach or not to teach our children, we can certainly agree that it should be up to the parent to decide, not the government," the senators said. 

Under Senate Bill 1277, parents would be informed and able to review new learning material for their children. They can then choose to have their child participate in the coursework or they would could opt them in for a non-explicit alternative. 

"At the end of the day, parents, not the government, should have final say in how their children are educated," Senator Aument said. 

Senate Bill 1278 would prohibit schools from withholding information from parents in accordance with existing state and federal laws. The bill would also increase transparency by requiring public schools to notify parents when there is a change to a student's services, and would protect students in the LGBTQ community by providing critical exemptions if it can be reasonably demonstrated that parental notification would result in the abuse or abandonment of a minor. 

The senators emphasized that the bill would not ban all discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. They stated that the bill also would not prohibit teachers from offering services or having conversations to students who are personally facing issues related to gender identity. 

“Our goal is certainly not to ostracize, demonize, or harm LGBTQ students in any way; rather, we want to find a fair solution that honors the very real concerns of parents that these sensitive topics are consistently being taught without their consent or knowledge to elementary school students," both senators said. 

The bills will now advance to the Pa. Senate for consideration. 

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