I’ve been writing about sex ed for nearly a decade now. It began when I landed a gig with AASECT, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. While with that organization—my child just an infant—I learned a lot about the state of sex ed in the United States, and about the role it could play in the overall health and well-being of my child as she moved through the world. When I left AASECT, I shifted the focus of my journalism work to sex ed. It just felt necessary.
So I’ve long been aware of the fears some parents carry around sex education. I want to maintain my child’s innocence, they say. Won’t teaching them about sex give them permission to have it? Aren’t they too young? Aren’t lessons like these better left to the parents? they ask, despite having no intention of teaching those lessons in the home.
It’s why most districts are required to make their curricula available to parents before these lessons are taught. It’s why opt-out (and, in less ideal circumstances, opt-in) laws exist. These laws are a nod to parental rights, an acknowledgment that parents and other caregivers should be able to make certain decisions around what their children learn about sexuality.
Putting aside my feelings about that, I’ve recently been seeing the term “parental rights” being used all over the damn place, usually as a means to restrict the rights of youth and the parents who are trying to support them.
And let me tell you, it is some kind of bullshit.