CARSON CITY, Nev. — State lawmakers in the Nevada Assembly voted Tuesday to revamp sex education for students.
The Assembly voted 26-15 along party lines to pass AB230, which requires a state council to determine criteria to be covered by an updated sex education course. School districts would then be responsible for setting specifics of the classes to comply with the state requirements. The bill now goes to the Senate.
“Giving our students the facts — giving them the medically accurate information they need — will save lives,” said Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, the primary sponsor of the measure. He added that Nevada has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.
The new curriculum would cover topics such as contraception methods, domestic violence and sexual abuse, communicable diseases and the effects of drugs and alcohol on decision-making.
It would also provide information about counseling services and emphasize abstinence as the most effective way to avoid teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
“In a perfect world we probably wouldn’t need this bill, but clearly we don’t live in a perfect world,” said Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas.
During a committee hearing on the bill, Flores revealed that she had an abortion at the age of 16 and attributed some of her hardships to a lack of sex education from both her school and home.
“If we don’t act, they will find out how to make their own decisions with wrong or inaccurate medical information,” Flores said during floor debate on the bill.
In 2005, Nevada had the third highest teen birth rate out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, but in 2010, Nevada ranked 17th — averaging 38.6 teen pregnancies per 100,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. By comparison, the national teen pregnancy rate in 2010 was 34.2 per 100,000.
Comprehensive sex education courses developed at the state level in other states have not made significant dents on those statistics, Assemblyman Wesley Duncan, R-Las Vegas, said.
“Where are the facts,” Duncan said of sex education overhauls leading to better related statistics.
Under current law parents must opt-in to the sex education course — this bill enrolls students unless their parents opt out.
“Unfortunately, in this non-perfect world we have the obligation to step up,” Flores said. “It is up to us to make a difference for those kids.”