Arizona Senate Republicans approved controversial changes to sex education laws that would make them some of the strictest in the nation when it comes to teaching about LGBTQ history.
Senate Bill 1456 passed the Arizona House on Wednesday and, if signed into law, would require state schools to get parents' permission for discussions about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and makes all HIV/AIDS instruction up for debate.
LGBTQ advocates says the bill harms students and erases comprehensive American history in schools
On Thursday, parents and community organizers gathered outside of the Heard Museum as Gov. Ducey signed a different bill into law and calling for him to veto SB 1456.
“This bill will harm my children,” said parent Julie Gunnigle.
“I have the right for my child to go to school in a safe and welcoming environment,” said parent Tory Roberg.
Advocates say the bill is a "wolf in sheep's clothing," essentially erasing chapters of American history from the classroom, such as the 1969 Stonewall riots and marriage equality.
“This bill would require parental approval of curriculum for historical events like the Stonewall Rebellion,” said Equality Arizona Executive Director Michael Soto.
Arizona's top educator and the state's school board association say SB 1456 is unnecessary and singles out LGBTQ students
Arizona State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman immediately released a statement condemning the bill as "state-codified bigotry."
In the statement, Hoffman says, "This legislation will once again silence and erase LGBTQ individuals and their history in our schools, and it will harm students and families."
Arizona already has existing law for parents to opt out of sexual education curriculum.
The Arizona School Board Association also condemned SB 1456 as a "tremendous overreach." The ASBA says the bill "perpetuates the idea that LGBTQ people, including the students we serve are 'abnormal' or 'other' and the materials covering people who resemble them are so taboo they require special permission."
Human Rights Campaign and ACLU Arizona say SB 1456 is a step backwards
The Human Rights Campaign also opposes SB 1456.
“Just as any other child, LGBTQ children should be able to see themselves in school curriculum, be affirmed, and have the opportunity to learn about themselves, including critically important health information as they develop. Over and over, we have seen that bills requiring parental consent for sex education disproportionately and negatively impact LGBTQ children," said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David.
"No matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, all students should feel supported by their schools and families to grow into who they are without fear – and without efforts to withhold important LGBTQ history from their education. This bill is nothing more than a harmful attempt by Arizona legislators to discriminate against LGBTQ children.”
The ACLU of Arizona's policy director Darrell Hill says SB 1456 disadvantages all Arizona students.
"It prevents them from learning valuable information all students should know,” said Hill.
Arizona Republican State Senator Nancy Barto defends SB 1456 as a fix to "lack of transparency" in school curriculum
The bill passed 31 to 28. It's primary sponsor Senator Nancy Barto says the bill is "completely agnostic concerning what schools can or cannot teach in regards to sexual education."
"It solely protects a parent’s right to decide when their child is ready and what their child is exposed to regarding sexual materials at school," said Barto in a statement to 12 News.
Senator Nancy Barto's full statement:
"It fixes a common problem – lack of transparency. Parents shouldn’t have to plead with a school district to provide them reasonable time to review new or revised sex-ed curriculum they are being asked to give permission to. It is the parent, not the school, that has the ultimate responsibility for guarding the education, health, safety and well-being of their child, but too often the parent is kept out of loop.
Second, the bill is inclusive of all students. It absolutely does not target or single anyone out. Everyone has a sexual identity. Everyone has a gender identity. And everyone exhibits gender expression in one way or another. It also eliminates confusion between what is opt-in and what is opt-out for both the school and parents regarding the sensitive subjects involved in human sexuality, promoting more parental engagement and respect for parents as their child’s primary educator. I am hopeful Governor Ducey will sign this important parental rights bill."
In 2019, Governor Ducey repealed a decades-old law in school curriculum that prohibited LGBTQ lifestyles being portrayed in a positive light.
The Governor has not yet signed SB 1456 into law.