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Church backs opt-in approach to sex-ed

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BOSTON—The bishops of the four dioceses of Massachusetts are supporting a change in state law that would require public schools to let parents opt for their children to participate in human sexuality classes rather than continue the current opt-out approach. In a statement to the Joint Committee on Education, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Church in the Commonwealth, outlined the problems with the opt-out system as well as the important role that parents play in their children’s education.

Schools are currently required to notify parents so that they can decide not to have their children participate in human sexuality classes, but this opt-out law is not keeping parents informed, according to Maria Parker, associate director of the MCC.

“Schools and special interest groups are finding ways around it, so they’re really not following the intention of the law,”she added. “Parents are not receiving information beforehand so they can opt their children out.”

In addition, Parker said, parents are “shocked when they see the content and the nature of the materials used in those classes because ever since the same-sex marriage decision, we have a lot of really problematic things that are being taught to children.”

Special interest groups are using schools to promote a “controversial agenda”that is “antithetical to parents’moral values,”she said.

Many of those troubled by the current approach to sexual education feel the best solution is a new law that would require parents to give permission before their children would have human sexuality education at school.

“The public schools would offer human sexuality classes as an elective, not as a requirement, and the children would only attend the class after their parents notify the school that they consent to their children participating in the classes,”said Parker. “State agencies don’t have the right to usurp the parents’rights.”

The new system would give the power back to parents who have the right to guard their children from unnecessary information about sex that would compromise their spiritual growth, she said.

“Parents entrust their students to schools,”Parker continued. “Sexuality classes fall outside the core of their academic mission. This is not something that you send your children to school to learn. Parents don’t send their children to school to learn the birds and the bees.”

“The opt-in approach seeks to preserve the crucial role that parents have in their children’s development in the delicate area of human sexuality. The parents, not the schools, serve as the principal educators of their children,”the MCC’s statement to the Joint Committee said. “The late Pope John Paul II stated that ‘the right and duty of parents to give education is essential since it is connected with the transmission of human life.’”

The Catholic Church has always maintained parents’rights as the primary educators of their children, Parker said.

“Our position can be summed up in the following statement of the Vatican Council’s Charter of the Rights of the Family: ‘Since they have conferred life on their children, parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them; …in conformity with their moral and religious convictions, taking into account the cultural traditions of the family which favor the good and dignity of the child; they should also receive from society the necessary help to perform their educational role properly,’”the statement said.

While the MCC is supporting the opt-in policy, it has not specifically endorsed any of the four bills that have come before the committee to achieve that end. Instead the bishops leave it to the Joint Committee to find “the best way to work out the mechanics,”the statement said.

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