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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Lawsuit challenges state law on sex education in schools

Montana school counselors, teachers and students are suing the state over a law that changed sex education policies.

Republican lawmakers framed the 2021 law as a way to boost parental control over their child’s exposure to sex education in Montana’s public schools. The policy requires schools to notify parents ahead of classes about human sexuality. It also requires schools to make their sex education curriculum available.

But challengers argue the law’s definition of “human sexuality instruction” is “flagrantly over-broad.” Attorneys say the rules about advance notification could extend beyond sex education classes and into student clubs, private counseling appointments, English class and more.

Marthe VanSickle is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.

“You can’t follow a law that you don’t have parameters around,” VanSickle told MTPR in a phone interview. “And, many teachers and educators and librarians have asked for guidance, but haven’t received any, or have received very little.”

Plaintiffs also argue the law violates the free speech and educational opportunity rights of students.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arnzten both backed the law and say they are committed to defending parental rights.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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