A leading Republican legislator drew a sharp rebuke from the state’s top education official over his claims sex-education courses are sexualizing children.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers alleges materials he saw in a presentation at a Gilbert charter school by Family Watch International have drawings of people engaged in sex acts.
The Republican speaker called the materials “a complete change’’ in how sex education has been taught for 40 years.
“I don’t need to sexualize children and tell them how to masturbate,’’ he said. “It’s way beyond where we need to be.’’
The comments come on the heels of the speaker, from the weekend meeting, indicating Kathy Hoffman, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is promoting these kinds of changes.
“When Kathy Hoffman promotes this, I don’t have any question it’s about radicalizing children and their sexuality.’’
Hoffman called the comments “abhorrent and reprehensible,’’ saying they have “no basis in reality.’’
And Stefan Swiat, her press aide, said Bowers does not understand the Department of Education has absolutely no control over the sex education curriculum in individual school districts. He also noted the department does not produce, nor has authority to review the materials that angered the speaker.
“We have no idea what he’s talking about,’’ Swiat said.
Hoffman, a Democrat, accused Bowers of “amplifying conspiracy theories being pushed by known hate groups.’’
The dispute has its roots in changes in sex education policies which Hoffman asked the Board of Education to review earlier this year. Board members repealed an Arizona sex-ed requirement which “promote(s) honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage.’’
It followed a decision by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who refused to defend the state in a lawsuit, challenging the language in the state statutes promoting “a homosexual lifestyle’’ or portray “homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style’’ while teaching about HIV and AIDS. Lawmakers repealed those laws.
But what stirred things up was Hoffman subsequently asking the board to consider a proposal by Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, to remove language in board rules now barring the teaching of “abnormal, deviant or unusual sex acts and practices’’ and replacing it with a requirement where sex-ed instruction must be “medically and scientifically accurate.’’
Board members scrapped the plan after hearing hours of testimony in opposition.
Since then, some groups are seeking to rein in existing sex education programs they consider improper.
That led to the presentation in Gilbert in which Bowers attended and first called Hoffman a “radical’’ before lashing out more broadly at sex-ed programs.
On Thursday, Bowers gave somewhat-conflicting answers on what he believes sex education is about and how it ought to be taught.
Bowers also acknowledged it is local school boards who get to decide what’s in sex-ed programs, with Arizona requiring parents to opt in. But he charged some districts are not properly informing parents about what’s exactly in those programs.
He said he supports more traditional sex education classes. But then he suggested maybe they’re not necessary at all.
“You know what? I have seven children,” he said. “I figured it out, my kids have figured it out.’’
“Go to a kid in high school and say, ‘Do you know how sex happens, do you know what happens when you have sex?’ ‘’ he said.
“I’m betting most of them know,’’ Bowers continued. “We don’t need to sexualize them in order to educate them.’’
But are there teens who don’t know how to prevent pregnancy?
“Oh, please,’’ he responded.