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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Triumph for Science and Public Health

I doubt most of these folks on the Kansas Board of Education are progressives, but at least they have made it clear that they are not going to take politically motivated trampling of the tenets of science in their state lying down. Good for them! Gives the rest of us courage to keep fighting the good fight.

Kansas Board of Ed. erases conservative sex ed policies

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) -- The Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday repealed sex education policies enacted last year, the latest move by the moderate majority to undo efforts by conservatives when they dominated the board.

One rescinded policy recommended that schools stress abstinence until marriage, while the other urged school districts to get parental permission before students could attend human sexuality classes.

On a 6-3 vote, the board replaced the policies with one that recommends "abstinence plus" sex education programs and leaves it up to the state's 296 school districts to decide whether to get parental permission.

The "abstinence plus" program stresses abstinence before marriage, while also urging schools to give students information about birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

"It's a matter of emphasis," said chairman Bill Wagnon.

Wagnon said the goal was "to describe the curriculum standards in terms of 'it's more than just simply an encouragement of abstinence,' but we want a balance and comprehensive educational program about sex."

But conservative member Kathy Martin said most parents want the standards enacted last year.

"Abstinence until marriage is the best message we can give our children," Martin said.

She said the old standards "emphasized self-control over birth control," and the new standards "fail to give a true picture."

It was the second major change for the 6-4 moderate bloc since taking control in January. Wagnon said the final major change could come Wednesday if the board hires a new education commissioner to replace Bob Corkins, hired by conservatives in 2005. His hiring touched off criticism because he had no experience as a school administrator, and he resigned in November after the new board was elected.

In February, the board repealed science standards backed by social conservatives and switched to ones that treat evolution as well-supported by research. The standards, which take effect next school year, are used to develop tests to measure how well students learn science.

The old standards, endorsed by supporters of "intelligent design," questioned the theory of evolution.

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