By JOHN MILBURN
TOPEKA -- College students lobbied Kansas legislators Monday to reject bills that would change the way parents approve student access to sex education courses and materials.
The bills would require school districts to receive parental or guardian consent before students would receive sex education instruction or access to materials. Currently, consent requirements are left to local districts.
Students from the University of Kansas, Emporia State University and Wichita State University were lobbying Monday to encourage legislators to reject the changes, arguing they would ignore the wishes of local communities. The students are members of campus Choice USA, a national abortion-rights organization that speaks out on reproductive rights issues.
The students lobby in Topeka each session and chose the sex education bill as their focus this year.
"We feel like it's a legislative overreach to put a statewide mandate on this," said Paul Brink, a Wichita State senior majoring in economics and political science.
The House bill will be heard Tuesday in the education committee. The Senate bill awaits a hearing. Both bills were introduced by Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, who was concerned about what materials are put in front of students.
Legislators said they've heard reports of classroom and hallway posters suggesting sexual ways individuals could express their love for someone else. The materials, Pilcher-Cook said, were put up without parents' knowledge.
The bill would "put parents back in control of what their children are being taught and the manner that it is being taught," she said.
Brink said districts should retain control over the issue based on community norms.
"A lot of families really don't talk about that, and we don't want students to fall through the cracks," Brink said.
Brink, who graduated from Jefferson West High School, described his upbringing as "very conservative" in which sexuality wasn't a frequent topic at home. His school had an opt-out policy, meaning parents had to notify the school their student wouldn't be receiving sex education.