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Indiana Law Strengthens Sex Education Parental Permission Requirements

Indiana parents will now receive two written opportunities to either consent or decline before their children receive sex education instruction in school districts, now that a new Indiana law was enacted July 1. Under the new law, school districts must send a notice to parents of upcoming sex education instruction requesting consent, and the notice must:

  • “accurately summarize the contents and nature of the instruction on human sexuality that will be provided to the student”;
  • contain information about the parents’ right to inspect the materials;
  • inform parents of alternative instruction available if consent is not given; and,
  • provide a clear option for consent or nonconsent.

Parents will receive a second notice containing all the details of the first notice if districts have not heard from parents within 21 days. Ten days after the second notice, districts may provide sex education instruction to children.

According to a letter that Liberty Counsel sent to all school districts in Indiana following passage of the measure, the new law became necessary because school districts were not complying with current standards on sex education instruction. In fact, a May 2018 news report highlights parent concerns with curriculum in an Indiana school district that taught children about different sex acts, types of lubricants, and listed abortion as an option for unplanned pregnancies.

In comparison, North Carolina law regarding sex education requires local boards of education to adopt policies for parents or guardians to either consent or to withhold their consent “to the students’ participation in any or all of these programs.” In other words, it leaves it up to the local school districts to decide how to implement either an “opt in” or “opt out” policy. North Carolina does not require two notifications like Indiana but stipulates that parents or legal guardians “shall be given an opportunity to review the objectives and materials” to be used in sex education instruction. The implementation of the law, however, is left up to the local school boards. (GS_115-81.30)

Indiana’s law also requires parental consent prior to the distribution of a survey to students that may ask personal questions not directly tied to instruction. This action was apparently prompted by concerns that surveys have been used “to affect the student’s attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings” concerning such things as political affiliation, religion, mental or psychological conditions, sexual behavior, and illegal or antisocial behaviors.

Research experts are well aware of what’s called “survey bias” whereby the “viewpoint of the researcher has a way of creeping into question design and analysis. Sometimes this is purposeful, and other times it is more subtle. […] Even the most practiced and professional researchers can have subtle biases in the way they word questions or interpret results.”

Recently, NC Family has highlighted several instances in which parent advocates in North Carolina were successful in fighting back against objectionable material backed by Planned Parenthood. We encourage you to continue to stay informed and to engage with school districts on the topic of sex education. As parents in Indiana and in our state have proven, your voice is invaluable in the lives of your own children and countless others!


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