The Efforts Of One Pearl-Clutchy Father May Backpedal Kansas Sex Ed Policy

shutterstock_166454390__1392917630_142.196.156.251In 2007, Kansas updated its archaic “abstinence only” sex education policy to allow schools to offer “abstinence-plus.” Abstinence-plus allowed schools to provide information about birth control and STD’s – while still requiring schools to stress abstinence as the best approach for dealing with sexuality as a teen. This was an important victory for health advocates, as anyone with a brain in their head understands that abstinence-only education is a ridiculous crock of denial. Now – seven years later – the state may be taking a giant step backward in their efforts to offer more comprehensive sex education, thanks to one angry parent.

An odd list titled “How do people express their sexual feelings” was posted to the wall of a sex-ed class in one Kansas middle school. A 13-year-old student took a picture of the list and showed it to her father, Mark Ellis. Mr Ellis brought the list to the press, which created such a controversy that Kansas lawmakers are introducing a bill that will likely backpedal all the progress they made with the 2007 decision.

From Think Progress:

A new GOP-backed bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R), would require every student to get parental consent before receiving sex ed instruction. That’s a departure from the current policy, which allows each school district to decide how to handle parental notification. Some of the state’s school districts currently allow parents to “opt out,” and remove their child if they object to the course. But under the new bill, every parent would be required to “opt in” their child instead.

The list was a little strange. It included oral sex, sexual fantasy, caressing, anal sex, dancing, massage, masturbation, holding hands, talking, cuddling on the couch, hugging, touching each other’s genitals, kissing, vaginal intercourse, talking, saying “I like you,” and grinding. Admittedly, it’s all over the place. But seriously – get a grip Mr. Ellis. We have sex ed in schools to educate teenagers about risky behavior and keep them STD and baby-free. Forcing parents to opt children in to sex education because you got all pearl-clutchy over a few descriptive words is ridiculous.

Not all teens are comfortable asking their parents to allow them to enroll in a sex-ed class. We may be placing barriers in front of kids who need these very important resources, and for what? Because one parent can’t come to terms with the fact that his daughter may have sex one day? I guarantee that by the time kids reach their teen years they have been exposed to all these terms – isn’t it better that they are exposed in the context of education? No, I forgot – if we ignore things, they go away. Just say no kids! 

“To require parents to opt students in to a sex education class creates an administrative nightmare for school staff, establishes a separate standard for health education than for other courses offered to students, and fails to recognize young people’s right to receive honest, age-appropriate sexual health information that can help them protect their health as they mature,” Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, told ThinkProgress. “Politicians should not be creating additional barriers that keep young people from receiving the information they need to protect their health and wellbeing.”

(photo: aquarius83men/ Shutterstock)

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  • RayneofCastamere

    If you want to opt out your kid, opt out, but don’t take away education from other people’s kids.

  • tk88

    Ugh, people are so prudish and stupid. I know of someone who was “opted out” of sex ed in another country because her father who was sexually abusing her didn’t want her finding out that what happened was sexual abuse. Maybe if she’d been in a sex ed class at puberty the abuse would’ve been discovered years earlier. Kansas should just be demolished and used to build a Wizard of Oz themepark. They don’t seem to be contributing anything else worthwhile.

    • Lackadaisical

      Kids here get an occasional assembly/talk on abuse and other scary problems with phone numbers to free confidential help lines, and parents do not get advanced warning, let alone an opt out option. That sort of thing can be so important for helping kids think “actually, this isn’t right” and know that they have a way to be heard or get help if they are too scared to approach the adults around them.

    • tk88

      May I ask where you mean by “here”? (I was wondering if you live in Kansas or you just meant the US since I mentioned another country) Because unless you meant it is mandatory for all schools in Kansas to have these presentations, I’m not sure they’re done in all schools. Even so, I think sex education is necessary so kids who haven’t been abused know how to prevent pregnancy, HIV and other STDs. I was just pointing out how important sex education is to young people.

  • Mystik Spiral

    Ignorance breeds ignorance and before you know it… Idiocracy.

    • Kay_Sue

      And in this case, it quite possibly may breed more people too.

    • Mystik Spiral

      Stupid people no less.

  • Kay_Sue

    The list was weird, I agree. But the fact is that it’s accurate–those are all ways that people express their sexual feelings towards other people. We don’t know (and this parent also doesn’t) what kind of discussion accompanied it. Using it to undermine sex ed across the state is ridiculous.

  • Alexandra

    It was probably one of those teacher-led discussions where he asked the students how they expressed sexual feelings and that’s why it’s so all over the place. We used to do that in school (although never for this subject – the horror!!)

    • Lindsay

      We had a similar list when the class guinea pig died that described all the reasons we loved him. They ranged from “he showed us how to eat healthy” to “he moved really slow” to “he didn’t squeak THAT loud.” Weirdly, no parents have requested we do away with guinea pigs…

  • Guest

    I’m surprised a kid of someone who is so terrified of sex being out there would show her father such a descriptive photo. That weirds me out a little bit.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Probably because she was all pearl clutchy and knew he would be too. Because he raised her to be. Or she was mad at the teacher/class/whatever and knew he’d get riled about it.

  • K.

    Between this and whole “intelligent design” crap, we’re in a sorry place when teachers–the people who have earned degrees in their profession–are asking parents–a role that requires absolutely no expertise or experience (let alone any knowledge about education)–permission on how and when to educate children.

    • SarahJesness

      If we’re gonna keep going down this road, we might as well get rid of public schooling altogether.

  • Rachel Sea

    When I hear of parents like this, I just assume they want to be grandparents before they turn 35.

  • brebay

    So they went from zero to sixty back to zero. Did anyone ever consider maybe just taking the poster down?

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    Making them opt-in is insane. Kids don’t give their parents permission slips when it’s a fun field trip they WANT to go on because they forget, are lazy, lost it, whatever. I can’t imagine the likelihood of getting a permission slip like that back. Kid’s embarrassed to ask, knows it’s going to make their parents want to discuss the talk, etc. No way will more than 5 of those come back.

  • jendra_berri

    Some things are too important to be left to chance. Not getting a quality sexual education is one of those things. It’s as important as reading. You just can’t go through life not knowing this shit. Ignorance on this topic can literally ruin your life. A parent can make their kid opt out and then teach nothing of any use about it.

    I don’t think opting out should be allowed. Parents can impart their own value system regarding sex at home. But the kids need to learn what it is, how it works, what it does and can do, how it be can done safely and the ways in which it might be illegal.

  • wmdkitty

    Ah, abstinence.


    I swear sometimes I wonder why I stay in this state. OTOH, the hubs and are very open with our daughter, so maybe she’ll help educate some fellow Kansans.

  • Muggle

    I’ve lived in a state with an abstinence-only sex “education” policy. The county I grew up in is trying its best to hold on to it, even though the state abandoned it 4 years ago. I’ve seen what abstinence-only does. I’ve seen what pearl-clutching over teen sex does. It is absolutely terrible. There are some things that take many years to un-learn. It kills your confidence. It gives you a very bleak, cynical, paranoid view of the world. It perpetuates the oppression of women and the idea that men are unloving sociopaths with no self-control.

    As much as we all hate to think about it, 13-year-olds are all over the place in regards to their sexual development. But wherever they are, they know about sex, they know what it is and some of the ways it can be had. It’s out there. Even before the Internet made porn so readily accessible, 13-year-olds knew about sex and thought about it a lot. It’s a natural part of human life. This asshat is doing his child no favors. She will be unprepared for a sexual relationship when she’s an adult.