House advances two ‘human sexuality’ parent notification bills

By: - March 2, 2023 9:04 pm

Classroom (Photo by Wokandapix via Pixabay | Creative Commons)

The Montana House passed two bills Thursday to revise parent notifications for “human sexuality instruction” — but the bills are different.

Sponsored by Rep. Kerri-Seekins-Crowe, R-Billings, House Bill 502 passed 68-32 — but without a couple of changes opponents had found most objectionable.

Seekins-Crowe notes parents will receive notifications from schools not less than 48 hours or more than 10 days prior to a related event or instruction.

However, the bill was earlier amended to remove a penalty that said a violation by a teacher would be considered “gross neglect of duty.”

It also was amended so schools and principals don’t have to give advanced notice for conversations students have, such as comments on the playground — an earlier requirement opponents said would be unworkable.

Seekins-Crowe said the bill fixes an issue in last session’s Senate Bill 99 about how much notice schools really needed to provide.

After that bill passed, she said some schools sent notices once a year, and some sent them out daily, even when they were going to read a story about two raccoons holding hands.

Her bill continues to require advanced notice for teaching and for “providing information” to students about human sexual anatomy, gender identity, intimate relationships, and other topics noted in the 2021 bill.

The other bill, House Bill 566, passed 66-33. Rep. Fred Anderson, R-Great Falls, sponsored it, and it makes different changes to last session’s SB 99, including taking out notification requirements for topics such as gender identity and intimate relationships — subjects some parents at the hearing said they wanted to hear about in advance.

As amended, it states the district will prepare a summary of its health enhancement curriculum and ensure it’s available to the public. It says repeat violators who knowingly ignore the requirements may be subject to disciplinary action.

Anderson said the requirements from 2021 place “a terrible load” on teachers to provide too much notification to parents. He proposed the bill after hearing parents complain about being flooded with mail they were just throwing into the garbage.

Anderson said he would be happy to see the body advance both bills and work them out. The bills need to clear third reading by Friday to keep moving ahead.

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.