Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers told parents at an education forum Saturday that the Democratic state schools chief is a “radical” and that Planned Parenthood has the “business plan of hell” in part because the organization advocates for sex education in public schools.
The forum, which attended by about 50 people, was held at a Gilbert charter school and was aimed at warning Arizonans about the “dangers of comprehensive sex education.”
Comprehensive sex education generally refers to sexuality education that is part of a comprehensive school health education approach which addresses age-appropriate physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions of human sexuality.
Bowers, a Republican from Mesa, told attendees it was his fourth briefing on comprehensive sex education by the group, and “after every one I feel like I’ve been bludgeoned.”
He claimed that Planned Parenthood has “created the business plan of hell” and that comprehensive sex education promotes a sexual lifestyle that leads to more abortions and more treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, which Bowers’ said helps Planned Parenthood’s “bottom line.”
Planned Parenthood Arizona rejected Bowers’s assertions.
“Arizonans are tired of hearing this kind of rhetoric,” said Tayler Tucker, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Arizona.
Bowers claimed that comprehensive sex education “sexualizes” children, making them more susceptible to sexual predators.
The speaker also called Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, who recently sought – and failed – to have the state Board of Education change the state standards for sex education in Arizona, a “radical.”
“I don’t feel radical, but I know a radical,” Bowers said while motioning to an image of Hoffman that was on the screen behind him. “When Kathy Hoffman promotes this, I don’t have any question it’s about radicalizing children and their sexuality.”
“Those comments are outrageous,” Hoffman told the Arizona Capitol Times. “He is using fear tactics and propaganda to mobilize his base.”
Bowers was not the only elected official who spoke to the crowd.
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told the audience that a change to the majority makeup of the state legislature could make Arizona “like California” in 2020 and parents would no longer have a say in sex education.
She told the crowd she plans to propose legislation next session to prevent any form of sex education being taught to students until fifth grade, which was met with cheers from the audience.
“I can’t do this alone, ’cause the politics is so nasty,” Allen said, urging the crowd to get involved politically.
Allen also stated her desire to “make sure” schools are aware that giving pornography to a minor is a felony, and she claimed that schools in the state have “required reading” that falls into this category.
Family Watch International President Sharon Slater claimed her organization was not against LGBTQ students or sex education. However, a majority of her presentation focused on preventing schools from mentioning anything related to transgender issues and sex education.
Specifically, Slater singled out groups like the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group that advocates for LGBTQ students, for working with schools and cities across the country on comprehensive sex education programs.
She alleged that GLSEN, Planned Parenthood and “other organizations” are using comprehensive sex education to push transgender ideology to make children comfortable with it and want to explore it.
The meeting also served as a recruitment tool to get people involved in a new organization opposing comprehensive sex education. The group, the Protecting Arizona Children Coalition, is part of a national coalition taking up the issue, said its leader, Lisa Fink.
Its mission statement is to “protect the health and innocence Arizona’s children and the fundamental rights of parents to direct the education, healthcare and upbringing of their children.”
Fink said she expects the group will be a presence at the Capitol when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Arizona Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson attended the meeting, as did members of the right-wing extremist group Patriot Movement AZ.
**Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Hoffman pushed to change curriculum on sex education, when she was actually pushing for a change in the standards that local school districts use to develop sex education curriculum.