RICHMOND Classroom discussion of bestiality, sodomy and other”crimes against nature” allowed in Virginia’s 15-year-old sex education law would be banned under a bill proposed by a Republican delegate.
“I philosophically believe that you cannot use public funds to teach about crimes against nature,” said the bill’s sponsor, John J. Welch III of Virginia Beach. “It’s a loophole that I think needs to be closed.”
With a copy of the Bible on his desk and wearing an American flag tie, Mr. Welch said parents in his suburban district were coming to his office “appalled” that their teen-age sons and daughters were taught “in their words, ‘alternative lifestyles.’”
Mr. Welch said he grew even more concerned when parents brought educational materials “that basically tried to teach safe sex for homosexual behavior, which almost by definition is crimes against nature.”
“Because of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, some people think it’s a good thing to teach [but] we don’t want public funds being used,” he said.
The Family Life Education program is state-mandated for students from kindergarten through 10th grade, though parents can opt their children out of the program for various reasons.
The House Education Committee could hold a hearing on the bill as early as this week.
Mr. Welch said he expects easy passage in the House, where Republicans hold 64 of the 100 seats, with two independents who typically caucus with them.
The state’s largest teacher’s union, the Virginia Education Association (VEA), maintains the legislation essentially would impose a “gag rule” on educators wanting to tell students about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, said Rob Jones, the union’s director of government relations.
Mr. Jones said that in an “ideal world many high school students would not know about” crimes against nature, which also include oral sex and have been banned in Virginia since English settlers first landed at Jamestown in 1607.
“[But] it’s ludicrous to think that they don’t,” Mr. Jones said. “Teachers need to be able to talk with students about these things. It’s like telling somebody we don’t want you to steal cars, but can’t use the word steal.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Delegate Brian J. Moran of Alexandria said he finds irony in the bills because Republicans usually do not want schools to be micromanaged, as Mr. Welch’s bill would do.
“I don’t believe that we should legislate the minutia of the classroom,” Mr. Moran said.
Two of Mr. Moran’s colleagues, Delegate Robert H. Brink, Arlington Democrat, and Delegate L. Karen Darner, Arlington Democrat, are proposing bills that would reduce acts of sodomy and oral sex from a Class 6 felony to a Class 4 misdemeanor.
Mr. Welch and fellow Republicans say those bills do not have a chance of making it out of committee, much less becoming law.
Victoria Cobb of the conservative Family Foundation said her group also has heard from concerned parents “about homosexuality coming into the classroom” and believes Mr. Welch’s bill would put an end to it, at least legally.
“[Homosexuality] is illegal and also carries risks,” Mrs. Cobb said.
Mrs. Cobb said the Family Foundation will ask for a “friendly” amendment to be added to Mr. Welch’s bill that would allow teachers to simply say there is a risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease if a person engages in a crime against nature, though not going into lengthy detail about the sex acts themselves.
“It is the parents’ duty, not the schools, to teach their children what they think is appropriate and when to teach it,” Mrs. Cobb said.
Delegate Terrie L. Suit, Virginia Beach Republican, agreed: “I don’t think we should be using public dollars to teach bestiality; that’s disgusting.”