With only days left before the end of the current Alaska Legislature session, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Alaska are applying pressure on Alaska lawmakers to reject a bill aimed at giving Alaskan parents greater freedom in directing the education of their children, including the right to opt out of standardized tests and controversial sex instruction classes. The bill would also prohibit organizations that perform abortions from teaching in public schools.
The ACLU of Alaska, which supports abortion, sent out an email blast to its supporters on April 11, urging them to call legislators to encourage them to reject Senate Bill 89. The email noted that nearly 5,000 emails were sent opposing SB 89 last month alone.
Senate Bill 89 has already passed the full Senate. It is now in the House Health & Social Services Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Paul Seton. A hearing for the legislation is set for April 12 at 3 p.m.
The bill requires local school boards to adopt policies that “promote the involvement of parents in the school district’s education program.” These policies must include procedures allowing parents to object to and withdraw children from an activity, class, performance standard, test or program the parent believes is “harmful to the child.” Accordingly, parents would be able to review the content of objectionable instruction or tests and to withdraw their child.
If the measure passes, schools would need to notify parents of any instruction or activities pertaining to sex education at least two weeks before the instruction is scheduled to begin. In order for the student to participate they would need written permission from the child’s parent. The bill would also ensure that when a child is absent from an objectionable activity or class they would not be penalized.
Additionally, the bill prohibits schools from administering questionnaires or surveys that inquire into “personal or private family affairs of the student” when such information is not a matter of public record unless there is written permission from the parent.
An amendment to the bill prohibits a school district from contracting with an “abortion services provider” and prohibits schools from allowing an abortion services provider to teach sex education.