(CNSNews.com) - Parental rights advocates in California are calling on Democratic Gov. Gray Davis to veto a controversial bill they say would "squash" parents' rights by allowing schools to conduct sex surveys on students without parental permission.
Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families (CCF), described as "crushing" the passing in the state Assembly of SB 71 by a vote of 44-31 on party lines after a contentious floor debate Tuesday.
The vote shows the Democrats in the California Legislature to be without conscience, Thomasson said.
"The moral conscience that said sex surveys without parental permission is shocking has now been replaced with: 'Well, we can take away a right of parents because we think that the sex surveys are important.' So again, the sacred things - marriage, parenthood, even the innocence of children - have been trashed," Thomasson said.
The state Senate passed SB 71 in June, which supporters say is designed to replace more than 10 separate and confusing laws passed over 35 years.
Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the bill's sponsor, called "completely inaccurate" opponents' charges that the bill disregards parents' rights.
"We didn't change the law," Kuehl said. "All we did was gather up all the disparate sections related to sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention education and put them in one place with one consistent parental review policy - parental opt-out policy - so they can understand it and school districts can enforce it."
The CCF said that under SB 71, children can be asked about such topics as losing their virginity, masturbation, homosexual sex, cross-dressing, group sex, bestiality and pedophilia without written parental permission as the current law requires.
Thomasson said SB 71 violates Section 51513 of the California Education Code by replacing the parental "opt-in clause with a much weaker opt-out.
"SB 71 also promotes the homosexual agenda," Thomasson said. "It not only teaches children to have respect for marriage, but for 'committed relationships.' That's subjective; that means two men together; that means even two 14-year-olds who feel committed," he said.
In addition, abstinence education would be severely downgraded under the new law, Thomasson said. "SB 71 gives lip service to abstinence education and promotes a lot of so-called safe sex, which is really not safe at all."
Supporters said Tuesday's vote got a boost from a recent report that found 85 percent of California's public schools violate one or more laws governing sex education.
The report, "Sex Education in Public Schools: Are Students Learning What They Need to Know?" by researcher Phyllida Burlingame, examined what California schools are teaching in sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention classes in grades 6-12, whether teachers receive adequate training and how well schools comply with the laws.
The report said nearly all middle and high schools surveyed teach HIV/AIDS prevention and sex education to their students. Ninety-four percent teach HIV/AIDS prevention classes, which are required by the state. Some 96 percent of schools teach sex education, which is voluntary.
The report also said a vast majority of parents surveyed wanted sex education for their children.
In addition to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, SB 71 also received broad support from the educational community, including the PTA, the California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Association of Student Councils and the California Teachers Association.
The medical community also supported the measure, including the California Medical Association, Kaiser Permanente, the National Asian Women's Health Organization, the California School Nurses Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence with Assembly amendments and may be voted on as early as Wednesday. Davis has indicated that he will sign the bill.
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