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Kansas board
postpones abstinence vote

Kansas board
postpones abstinence vote

The Kansas board of education this week heard testimony about its proposal to require public schools that teach sex education to emphasize abstinence until marriage or risk losing accreditation. After two hours of expert and public commentary about the proposal, the board decided to postpone voting on the issue.

Board members were uncertain whether the proposal would allow school districts the discretion to offer comprehensive sex education. In Kansas, 75% of districts teach comprehensive sex education, which includes discussion about birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

"We need to be the ones to say, 'This is the right thing to teach,'" said board member Kathy Martin, who introduced the proposal. She noted that the accreditation of schools is already tied to mandated math and science standards.

Other members were not as sure the board should get involved with the issue to such an extent. The state board should maintain the right of local districts to decide their own needs, said member Janet Waugh. Board member Carol Rupe supported a recommendation of teaching abstinence until marriage but said it would be wrong to change state regulations to require it.

The majority of public comments were decidedly in favor of sex education that included abstinence as well as information about birth control and other sexuality issues.

Abstinence Educators Association executive director Sandy Pickert testified that comprehensive sex education programs typically spend just 4% of their time discussing abstinence and are ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy and STDs. Kathy Cook, representing Kansas Families United for Public Education, said the issue is not about politics but kids, and she urged board members not to interfere with local school boards. Board member Connie Morris angrily responded that the board has a constitutional duty to provide oversight for schools. (AP)

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