Video: Gov. signs bill for 9/11 instruction & Legislators discuss prohibiting sexually explicit materials in schools - AZEdNews
Sections    Thursday March 23rd, 2023

Video: Gov. signs bill for 9/11 instruction & Legislators discuss prohibiting sexually explicit materials in schools

Rep. John Kavanagh Shares Why He Sponsored The 9/11 Education Day Bill In The House Education Committee On Feb. 15, 2022. Photo Courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Arizona Legislators were scheduled to discuss a bill today that would prohibit sexually explicit materials in school, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill last week requiring public school students to receive instruction about 9/11.

House Bill 2325, sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, requires public school students to receive age-appropriate instruction on the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for a portion of 9/11 Education Day that align with academic standards and uses resources from a list of recommended resources by the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education may develop policies or adopt rules to do so.

“I’m running the bill for the Governor’s Office. They wanted this to occur,” said Rep. Kavanagh during in the House Education Committee meeting on Feb. 15, 2022. “I’m very grateful that the Governor asked me to run this bill, because I do have a very special connection to 9/11. Even though I retired from my Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police job eight years prior to 9/11, I had spent 20 years on the job.”

Rep. Kavanagh said he personally knew many of the 37 Port Authority Police Officers who died on 9/11 “either having taught them while I instructed at the police academy or having worked with them at the nearby bus terminal and other Port Authority facilities.”

“It was an especially personal tragedy for me. To run a bill that will ensure that our students have a brief period of instruction and remembrance for this horrific day and for the nearly 3,000 victims who dies is something of which I’m very proud and very grateful to be able to do,” Rep. Kavanagh said.

Last year, Gov. Ducey said he planned to work with educators and lawmakers to require instruction about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

HB 2325 was signed into law by Gov. Ducey last week, making Arizona the 15th state to require students to learn about the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The events on September 11, 2001 shaped a generation and forever changed America,” Gov. Ducey said. “The tragic events that unfolded that morning bound us together and altered how we view the world.”

“We have an obligation to teach our children about the events and ideas that made us who we are as a nation. On that day, we faced an attack on who we are and what we stand for: democracy, liberty and freedom. We’re going to ensure future generations of Arizonans never forget how those values were defended on September 11, 2001,” Gov. Ducey said.

Arizona high school standards included instruction about domestic and international terrorism, but did not require instruction about 9/11 or the United States’ response to the terrorist attacks before this bill.

State Board of Education Member Christine Burton said, “We must help our future generations of students – who did not experience the tragedy of September 11, 2001 – understand critical moments in our nation’s history.”

“Now with 9/11 Education Day, we can support teachers with resources to teach and ensure there is time in the school day to ensure we never forget. Thank you to Governor Ducey for signing this legislation,” Burton said.

Bill to prohibit sexually explicit materials in school

House Bill 2495, sponsored by Rep. Jake Hoffman, that would prohibit Arizona public schools from using or referring students to any sexually explicit material in any manner was scheduled to be discussed today in a Senate Floor Session that started at 1:30 p.m, but was later held on the calendar.

Arizona Capitol Television: Senate Floor Session – 5/23/22

HB 2495 also states that materials may be exempted if it is classical literature, early American literature, or a required book for a course to obtain college credit.

In addition, HB 2495 required written parental consent before referring a student to or using the exempted material and schools shall require parental consent on a per-material basis.

Under HB 2495, schools must provide an alternative assignment that does not contain any sexually explicit material to any student for whom parental consent is not secured.

HB 2495 defines sexually explicit material as textual, visual, or audio materials or materials accessed by any other medium that depicts sexual conduct such as acts of masturbation, sexual intercourse or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, public area, buttocks, or breast; sexual excitement such as the condition of human male or female genitals when in a state of sexual stimulation or arousal; and ultimate sexual acts such as sexual intercourse, vaginal or anal, fellatio, cunnilingus, bestiality or sodomy.

“There’s truly nothing more sacred than the innocence of  a child,” said Rep. Hoffman said during the Senate Education Committee meeting March 15, 2022. “Since the 1960s, the State of Arizona has taken this responsibility incredibly seriously even going so far to enshrine protections in our obscenity code to protect children from sexually explicit material.”

“The definition that you see in that bill is pulled from that criminal code that exists today that’s been in place since the ‘60s and hasn’t been amended since the early 2000s,” Rep. Hoffman said.

“When they wrote that code in the ‘60s, I don’t think they could have imagined some of the things that are actually occurring in schools today and in our K-12 classrooms,” Rep. Hoffman said.

During discussion of HB 2495 in the House Education Committee on Jan. 25, 2022, Rep. Daniel Hernandez asked if Rep. Hoffman saw such materials and experienced these materials being shared without the involvement of parents when he served on the Higley Unified School District school board.

Rep. Hoffman said not in his district but in district surrounding Higley Unified.

“The way this is drafted homosexuality as a whole is considered sexually explicit,” Sen. Hernandez said.

“For 28 years, we had a bill in 2019 that we repealed about HIV instruction,” Rep. Hernandez said. “I’m concerned that this bill may ban any conversation about homosexuality.”

Rep. Hoffman said, “It is about acts of homosexuality not being homosexual.”

“I do not think this language is clear,” Rep. Hernandez said. “I think that schools will stay away from this hot topic, because the language is not clear.”

Rep. Judy Schweibert asked what is defined as a classic work of literature in the amendment proposed by House Education Chair Michelle Udall.

House Education Chair Udall said there are broad definitions of that online, and teachers will still have to get parent consent before they can teach that.

When Rep. Schweibert asked if a student could check out “The Color Purple” book, Rep. Hoffman said if a parent opted in they could.

“Why is homosexuality put outside of context of sexual intercourse in this bill?” Rep. Hernandez asked.

Michelle Dillard said she supports the bill morally and ethically, but can’t find a reason for the bill to be passed as law since there is already a statute prohibiting the distribution of offensive, harmful materials to minor children.

Shiry Sapir, a candidate for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, said she did not believe anyone wanted this material being made available to children.

Jeanne Casteen said she was opposed to the bill and said the bill could remove books like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, “Night” by Elie Wiesel and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

‘What if I don’t like classical literature or it doesn’t speak to my students?” Casteen asked.

“Our children go through tough things, and books can help them get through those things,” Casteen said.

A professor who has done research on LGBTQ+ youth said, “seeing yourself reflected in the curriculum is associated with better academic outcomes for all students.”

He urged legislators to vote no on the bill.

Geoff Esposito spoke on behalf of the ACLU against the bill and said the “Legislature should not be in the position of censorship.”

“Taking such an action to eliminate students access to materials that represents them isolates and others them,” Esposito said.

Rebecca Beebe with the Arizona School Administrators said her organization is opposed to the bill.

“We certainly have concerns about the word homosexuality in this bill,” Beebe said. “It says sexual conduct is homosexuality, and we have concerns about how that affects discussion of historical figures.”

Darcy Mentone from Vail School District said many classics taught in high school and Advanced Placement courses have one scene of minor sexual content, so the district really appreciates the amendment, and letting parents opt out so their student could do an alternative assignment if they choose.