A bill that requires parental permission before a child participates in sex education in school is a bad idea and lawmakers should shelve it.

Let’s be clear: This is not about ideology; it’s about reality.

Under state law, parents now have the ability to keep their children out of sex education classes. Those who feel strongly about the issue can make certain their kids don’t take part in these classes — they can simply “opt out.” And some actively engaged parents give their kids the sex education they feel is appropriate in the home.

But conservative lawmakers aren’t content with that. House Bill 239 would require parents to “opt in” before their child receives sex education.

The problem arises with parents who are indifferent to the issue or too distracted to deal with it. And that can happen in far too many cases. Single-parent households and parents with multiple jobs may simply forget to send the permission for their child to attend sex ed classes. And that could very well mean those kids will get no sex education at all. That will leave many teens and pre-teens without basic knowledge about the consequences of sexual activity.

Statistics show that a majority of teens have engaged in sex before they graduate from high school. As a society, we have a collective interest in making sure all teens are informed about the consequences of sexual behavior. Unwanted pregnancies can keep young people out of the work force and reliant on costly social services. That comes with a price we all pay.

We should all agree that all kids need sex education. And those parents who want to do that in the home can do so under current law.

This bill is making its way through the Legislature for the second time. In 2011, it was vetoed by then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer. And so it should have been. We need to make sure that no kids fall through the cracks when it comes to sex education.

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