Update – January 10, 2020:
Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen (R) released a statement today announcing she would file an amendment removing the section from SB 1082 that bans schools from using the word “homosexuality” when discussing sex education.
Arguing that people “misinterpreted” her, Allen said in a statement, “Several news outlets have reported that my bill to provide parents more access and information on sexual education courses also prohibits the inclusion of homosexuality as part of any chosen curricula.” She continued, “They are misinterpreting the language. That was absolutely not my intention.”
On the contrary, SB 1082 literally struck the word homosexuality from the definition of sexual conduct, effectively forbidding public schools from providing an inclusive sex education curriculum (and teaching materials) that can address the unique needs of the LGBTQ community.
“I regret that it has diverted attention from the main goal of the bill, which is to assist parents with more access and transparency, so that they could make informed decisions about the health and welfare of their children,” Allen added. “I will post an amendment today that removes the provision that has raised concerns.”
Allen concluded, “With this clarification, I aim to return the conversation on this bill back to my original intent–to provide meaningful opportunities for parents to engage and be contributory on this very important issue.”
Of note, the legislation still changes the age/grade level schools are allowed to discuss sex education. It additionally still forces public schools to focus on abstinence-only education rather than comprehensive sex education.
Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen (R) proposed legislation this week to ban public schools from using the word “homosexuality.” The proposed legislation follows the repeal of Arizona’s “no promo homo” law last year. The repeal rolled back a decades old law “forbidding sexual education in public district and charter schools that promotes a ‘homosexual lifestyle.’”
Conservative Arizona lawmaker Sylvia Allen would ban discussions of homosexuality in sexual education classes in the state’s public and charter schools, part of sweeping legislation that would create new obstacles to sex ed.
Allen, a Republican state senator from Snowflake, has already scheduled the bill for a hearing next Tuesday – the second day of the new legislative session – before the Senate Education Committee, which she chairs.
The bill – SB 1082 – would remove the word “homosexuality” from the officially recognized definition of “sexual conduct” thereby prohibiting it from being used in conjunction with sex education in schools:
Allen’s legislation would also ban all sex education in Arizona schools before grade seven. It also reemphasizes the failed ‘abstinence only’ ideology conservative politicians have pushed into sex education agendas for years. (Note: statistics show school districts that focus on abstinence only education have substantially increased teen pregnancy and STI rates.)
By banning the word ‘homosexuality’ and forcing schools to focus their efforts on ‘abstinence only’ sex education (rather than comprehensive sex education), Allen’s legislation would effectively criminalize learning about risk reduction in teenage sexuality.
This is particularly pertinent for LGBTQ teenagers as statistics show similar laws – ‘no promo homo’ laws in particular – have the effect of increasing HIV infection rates. Arizona already has the 14th highest rate of new HIV infections according to the CDC.
Responding to the legislation, Arizona School Superintendent Kathy Hoffman told 12 News, “It appears to undo the progress we have made as a state.” Hoffman added, “It could put the state at risk of another lawsuit.”
The previous lawsuit she referenced resulted in the aforementioned repeal of the “no promo homo” law.
“To me it says (homosexuality) should not be discussed in our schools,” Hoffman added. “School leaders can interpret it that way.”
Openly gay State Senator Tony Navarette also commented on Allen’s legislation:
Senator Tony Navarette, an openly gay Democrat from Phoenix, says denying that homosexuality exists deprives students of basic factual information that could keep them safe and healthy.
“This is really a health issue,” he says.
Navarette adds that coming out would have been much easier for him had his teachers been able to speak openly about homosexuality in the classroom.
This isn’t the first time Senator Allen has attached her name to controversial legislation or beliefs.
Later, in July 2019, she argued Republicans needed to reproduce at higher rates otherwise “we’re going to look like South American countries very quickly.”
She was later forced to apologize for that racist statement, though in her apology she used additional racist terminology claiming “verbal lynching is the political tool used today to silence debate on critical issues.”
SB 1082 is scheduled to be heard in the state Senate on January 14.
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