Alaska Schools Discuss Whether Exempting Kids from Sex Ed is 'Unconstitutional'

Parents have been struggling with an ongoing debate with a school board in Juneau, Alaska, over whether or not they have the right to pull their children from sexual education classes.

At a recent school board meeting on Monday, school officials devised a proposal that would give parents more say, but would not completely limit the principal from rejecting opt-outs for Juneau students.

Residents of the state's capital city were encouraged by the result and expressed that they should have a say over the moral issues that their children are faced with.

"The school board should be welcoming, not rejecting, parents who care about what their kids are learning," a parent who attended the public hearing explained to legal group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI). "We are cautiously hopeful that implementation of this new policy will do that."

Currently, the local school system is beginning to implement a new proposal on how to handle three areas of instruction in its public schools: Puberty/Sex Education, Child Safety/Abuse, and Family Configurations.

In several of the proposals that had arisen over the past weeks, principals would have the complete right to reject parent submissions to pull their children from topics they think are controversial or inappropriate. Children starting from the first grade would then be required to take entire curriculum despite the opinions of the parents.

Several parents in the area have been trying to fight these propositions, expressing that the school should not have exclusive rights to undermine the family's moral positions. Many were especially worried about the third topic, Family Configurations, which they argued was pro-homosexual. The class would teach about acceptance of "all families," which would include same-sex, transgender, and bisexual "families."

A group of board members and school staff have voiced their support for the proposals over the past weeks, however, explaining that the parents' positions on this issue were "unconstitutional." One board member, Marc Choate, even expressed that those against teaching Family Configurations were analogous to racists who fought against desegregation during the civil rights movement.

In an attempt to gain some legal backing, the parents contacted PJI – a legal defense organization that specializes in defending religious rights – which sent a letter to the school board explaining that parental discretion "is clearly consistent with state and federal law."

"Allowing parents to decide how their children should be taught controversial subjects such as sexuality and alternative 'families' is not illegal," explained PJI President Brad Dacus, in a statement. "It is vital to ensuring that the moral compass of the next generation is not dictated primarily by the government."

After the public meeting on Monday, Juneau parents were encouraged by the outcome, but are now waiting to see whether the edict will meet their desires.