GOP sex ed furor lingers over child sexual abuse task force meeting

By: - September 25, 2019 8:05 am

This story deals with sexual abuse and assault of minors. If you or someone you know has been a victim of this crime, call 800-656-HOPE for 24/7 help and support.

In the midst of a brewing controversy over sex education in Arizona schools, Gov. Doug Ducey’s task force that aims to examine ways to better protect children from sexual abuse had its second meeting. 

The task force is seemingly at odds with legislative priorities outlined by Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, who have stated their intentions to block any sort of sex education up to the fifth grade. 

The task force in its first meeting had discussed age appropriate preventative training for children on how to spot inappropriate sexual behavior starting at an early age, something legislation proposed by Allen could prevent. 

Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, who co-chairs the task force with acting Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, said he aims to speak with Allen about her legislation. 

“In principal, they should be fine with (the task force’s recommendations),” Boyer told Arizona Mirror after the meeting. “I think we’re all on the same page.” 

However, a bill proposed earlier this year by Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, that would have created what the task force is looking into creating died without a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, which Allen leads. During her speech at a Sept. 14 education forum in opposition to sex education in schools, Allen bragged about how she blocked Democrat bills related to sex education. 

Currently, 26 states and Guam have a law that requires the state to either study or develop age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention and identification classes beginning in pre-kindergarten in order to educate both students and teachers about the signs of child sexual abuse. 

Arizona is not one of those states. 

The task force’s second meeting focused heavily on sex trafficking and cold cases, though the issue of sex abuse prevention education and sex education hung over the group. 

“Its sort of ad hoc right now,” Gilbert Orrantia, Arizona’s Director of Homeland Security said about sex abuse prevention training during a presentation to the task force. “In some situations, people don’t really want that right now. Its not sex education, its prevention education.”

Orrantia later reiterated that one of the biggest ways to stop sex trafficking of children is preventative education. 

Additionally, a representative from the State Board of Education was present during the task force meeting. 

Earlier this month, Bowers told parents at an education forum 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. 

Bowers previously told the Mirror that he had not met with anyone on the task force to discuss the education component of preventing child sex abuse.

“There isn’t a middle ground on sexualizing my children,” Bowers said. “If you want to put that in your paper, you can.” 

The House speaker reiterated he was “all for” helping kids understand what they need to know when speaking with police, but said children are able to educate themselves on sex.

“If you go and talk to a kid, they can figure out how sex works real quick,” Bowers said. 

The task force didn’t delve into the issues around sex education that are brewing at the Capitol, and focused instead on looking deeper into the issues of cold cases and child sex trafficking. 

Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, expressed surprise when a speaker from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office told the task force that law enforcement agencies in Arizona do not have a centralized repository to share data on sex crimes. 

Carter said she wants tha task force to come up with a recommendation to allow for better reporting between law enforcement entities in the state in order to keep child sex predators from moving around to avoid detection, a tactic often used by perpatrators of sexual abuse. 

The task force is scheduled to meet again on Oct. 1.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

MORE FROM AUTHOR