Rhode Island
Rhode Island

July 18, 2005

House Bill 5354: An Act Requiring Sex Education for Homeschools and Private Schools

Representatives Dennigan, Lewiss and Slater

This bill would have required homeschool and private school programs to teach sex education from kindergarten through grade 12. The bill died in Committee when it was not heard before the legislature adjourned.

02/08/2005(House): Introduced, referred to Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
03/16/2005(House): Health, Education and Welfare Committee Hearing. Time: Rise of the House (approximately 4:30 PM). Location: Room 135 State House, Smith Street, Providence RI 02903. The Committee continued the bill.

HSLDA's Position:

Action Requested:
No more action is necessary.

1. Rhode Island Law sec. 16-22-4 forbids a school committee from approving a homeschool program unless it provides instruction in "health and physical education." H 5354 changes this by adding a definition of 'health education" which includes many aspects of sexuality.

2. Under H 5354, a school committee would be required to reject a homeschool program if it failed to teach any of the items within the new definition of "health education" or failed to teach any of those items in the manner prescribed by the bill.

3. The Commissioner of Education has stated that school committees can require that students are tested in all areas of instruction. H 5354 would give school committees power to decide what a student would be required to score on a sex education test. If the test did not cover all the required items, or did not cover them in the required manner, the school committee could prohibit the child from being homeschooled again.

4. The bill mandates that sex education is taught in a manner that "does not teach or promote religion." Therefore, the school committee may prevent you from homeschooling if you plan to use the Bible to teach on this subject.

5. Parents of children in "schools" are allowed to opt out of sex education under RI law 16-22-17(c) and 16-22-18(c). However, there is no provision specifically allowing homeschoolers to opt out. Representative Elizabeth Dennigan, the bill sponsor, has expressed a willingness to amend her bill. I have asked her to send me the exact language of the amendment. Until I can review the amendment and determine whether it protects homeschool families, H 5354 continues to be a bill that must be opposed.

6. The bill defines "health education" as:

"education of students in grades kindergarten through twelve regarding human development and sexuality, including education on family planning and sexually transmitted diseases, that: (a) is age appropriate, medically accurate, culturally sensitive and respects community values; (b) does not teach or promote religion; (c) teaches that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases; (d) stresses the value of abstinence while not ignoring those young people who have had or are having sexual intercourse; (e) provides information about the health benefit and side effects of all contraceptives and barrier methods as a means to prevent pregnancy; (f) provides information on the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptive methods as a means to reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; (g) encourages family communication about sexuality between parent and child; (h) teaches young people the skills to make responsible decisions about sexuality, including how to avoid unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances and how not to make unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances; and (i) teaches young people how alcohol and drug use can affect responsible decision making."

 Other Resources

Mar-17-2005 — Rhode Island--Overflow Crowd Opposes Sex Education Bill

Mar-16-2005 — Rhode Island--Update on Sex Education Bill - 4:30 pm Hearing Expected Today

Mar-15-2005 — Rhode Island--Calls Needed Urgently to Stop State-Imposed Sex Education in Homeschools

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History