Sex-ed bill heads to House, meanwhile, local fights continue

The Senate passed a sex-ed bill on Thursday with more Republican support than in the past, but it’s heading to the House where Speaker Bob DeLeo has not yet committed to taking it up.

DeLeo said in May that sex education  was “on our radar” to look at, drawing attention to the fact that the language of the bill has been adjusted.

Under the new bill, schools offering sex education would be required to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate information, including LGBTQ-inclusive materials, while allowing parents to opt their children out. The bill also places an emphasis on consent, an issue that has been brought into the spotlight during the #MeToo movement.

Advocates say that the move will help prevent pregnancy, sexual assault ,and curb sexually transmitted infection rates among youth.

A 2018 study cited by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, which submitted testimony in favor of the bill, found that more than 7 percent of all high school students report having been sexually assaulted, with 11 percent of young women and 3 percent of young men saying they have survived an act of sexual violence.

Everett Democrat Sal DiDomenico, the bill’s lead sponsor, says that youth are learning information that is “not accurate and could be dangerous for their health.”

The bill passed the Senate 33-2. Republicans Dean Tran of Fitchburg and Ryan Fattman of Sutton voted against it. But, unlike last session, the Senate’s other two Republicans, Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Weymouth’s Patrick O’Connor, voted in favor of the legislation. In 2017, Tarr pushed for allowing parents to opt in if they wanted their children to learn the material rather than requiring them to opt out.

Tran argued in favor of an amendment that could prove to be the greatest sticking point in the House debate — whether districts updating their curriculum should be required to hold public hearings and a vote on the topic.

That very practice was in the news last year when the Worcester School Committee called off action on a new sex-ed curriculum in a district that officials say is without comprehensive sex education. Worcester Magazine uncovered emails showing how Mary Mullaney, a socially conservative former school committee member, tried to block the curriculum by lobbying key figures in the decision-making process, including Worcester Superintendent Maureen Binienda.

The school committee, has added new sex-ed curriculum to its agenda, and began meeting last night.

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker, who is pro-choice, has increased funding for sexual education programming that focuses on contraception. He signed a bipartisan contraception bill in 2017 requiring insurers to cover birth control without a copay. He has not yet weighed in on the Senate vote or indicated if he would sign the legislation should it pass the House.

Massachusetts Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons, however, didn’t mince words in weighing in on the measure. “It allows Planned Parenthood to syphon more taxpayer dollars, and at the same time promotes a reckless curriculum encouraging children to participate in dangerous sexual activity, all under the mask of progressivism,” Lyons said.

Organizations like the Massachusetts Family Institute and Mass GOP oppose any statewide legislation related to sex-ed, with the Family Institute’s president, Andrew Beckwith, saying it takes away control from school districts, and promotes contraception that some parents might deem inappropriate.

The House version of the bill, co-filed by West Boylston Rep. Jim O’Day, has 97 reps listed as cosponsors, a jump of more than 20 since the last go around.

SARAH BETANCOURT


BEACON HILL

The Senate easily passed a sex education bill. (MassLive)

The Globe op-ed page airs the pros and cons of reviving rent control in Massachusetts, as proposed in pending legislation.

Gov. Charlie Baker proposed a set of reforms for the scandal-plagued State Police, including eliminating the requirement that the head of the force come from within the State Police ranks. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Opposition blocks a condo project in Natick, but the owner of the property walks out of a public hearing on the matter promising to build a big school on the property. (MetroWest Daily News)

Jon Chesto explains why Boston may never reel in the nearly $700,000 in property taxes it’s owed by the No Name restaurant, which abruptly closed at the end of December. (Boston Globe)

Holyoke is gearing up, again, for people fleeing Puerto Rico.

A Berkshire Eagle editorial dismisses grumbling about City Council assignments in Pittsfield, saying elections have consequences.

A Lawrence Department of Public Works employees who was shot and killed while filling potholes was not the intended target of the shooter, police say. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The impeachment trial of President Trump is now set to begin on Tuesday — though new information continues to emerge and senators now seem certain to vote before the full story of pressure on Ukraine is known. (New York Times)

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley has lost all her hair due to alopecia, and she made a video to announce it. (Boston Globe)

US Virgin Islands officials say that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked girls on the islands, including some he owned, until 2018. (WGBH)

Lobster sellers in Gloucester are hopeful a new trade deal with China will help their industry. (Gloucester Times)

ELECTIONS

Labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan drops out of the US Senate race, leaving Rep. Joe Kennedy as the only challenger to Sen. Ed Markey. (MassLive)

As the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren tensions persist over what was said during a private 2018 conversation between them, Herald columnist Hillary Chabot says Warren has a history of less than complete attachment to telling the complete truth on matters.

IMMIGRATION

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and two other lawmakers ask US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about the agency’s involvement in “Operation Paper Chase,” a sting operation targeting foreign students fraudulently using visas for exchange programs. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Dan McNulty of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council says young workers are the key to a resurgent labor movement. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

After recently calling for MIT president Rafael Reif to step down over the Jeffrey Epstein donation scandal, Globe columnist Shirley Leung says the university’s board of trustees chairman, Robert Millard, needs to go, too.

The Dennis-Yarmouth School Building Committee has begun paring $5 million from plans for the new regional middle school, working from a list of possible cuts put together by project architects and management team members. (Cape Cod Times) 

The American Civil Liberties Union is blasting the Braintree school district over a practice in place at many South Shore high schools: assigning different-colored graduation gowns to students of different genders. (Patriot Ledger) 

The Standard-Times has learned of a draft of proposed changes to the state’s admissions rules for vocational high schools, included eliminating discipline as a criterion unless the student had been suspended or expelled.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Prominent psychiatrist Keith Ablow is still counseling patients even though his medical license was suspended by the state Board of Registration in Medicine. (CommonWealth)

The CEO of Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Michael Apkon, spent nearly five years as head of a hospital in Toronto, and he’s convinced we can streamline coverage complexities in the US — though he doesn’t endorse switching to a single-payer system. (WBUR)

ARTS/CULTURE

Pittsfield is hoping to marry the area’s beautiful scenery with its arts scene at the upcoming 10X10 festival. (Berkshire Eagle)

CASINOS

MGM Springfield is looking to expand entertainment and other non-gambling offerings in the face of a continued slide in gaming revenue. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The chief legal counsel and public records officer at the Berkshire district attorney’s office quits over DA Andrea Harrington’s refusal to release records on a controversial decision not to prosecute a college student for falsely claiming she was racially attacked. Jeanne Kempthorne said Harrington’s intervention was the last straw in an office where a “campaign culture” dominated. (Berkshire Eagle)

An Appeals Court decision will allow a former foster family’s lawsuit to proceed against the Department of Children and Families for not divulging that a foster child placed with them had a history of committing sexual abuse. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Rolling Stone digs into the layoffs at iHeartMedia and says the network seems to be centralizing all its radio operations and eliminating local community DJs, something allowed under a 2017 FCC change.