Sexual consent remains optional topic for family life education in Virginia high schools after bill rejected

RICHMOND – A House subcommittee rejected a bill Friday that would have required high schools to include a discussion about sexual consent in their sex education curriculum.

A subcommittee of the House Education Committee deadlocked 5-5 on a motion to advance House Bill 44. As a result, the motion failed.

Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation that gave public schools permission to include consent as part of a family life curriculum. This year’s bill would have altered that law to make consent education a requirement, not an option.

“The difference here is negligible because family life education is already permissive,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax Station, chief sponsor of the bill.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield (Photo courtesy of VCU Capital News Service)

If the bill had passed, it would not have guaranteed that Virginia public schools would teach students that consent is required before sexual activity. Though Virginia has laws that define sex education curriculum requirements, family life classes are not mandated by law.

However, several localities voluntarily provide the sex education curriculum described by the Board of Education’s family life education guidelines. School districts that choose to include family life education must first obtain permission from parents.

Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia mandate that public schools provide comprehensive sex education; Virginia does not. Virginia is one of three states that require parental consent in order to participate in sex education.

The five subcommittee members who voted in favor of HB 44 were Republican Del. Roxann Robinson of Chesterfield County and Democratic Dels. Jeffrey Bourne of Richmond, Jennifer Boysko of Fairfax, Chris Hurst of Blacksburg and Cheryl Turpin of Virginia Beach.

Republican Dels. Glen Davis of Virginia Beach, David LaRock of Loudoun County, Jay Leftwich of Chesapeake, John McGuire of Henrico County and Brenda Pogge of James City County voted against the bill.

By Irena Schunn

Capital News Service