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Effort to Block Funding for Sex Ed Texting Program Fails

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Lawmakers are in Richmond trying to deal with the health emergency created by the pandemic and the economic emergency caused by the shutdown while also addressing systemic racism and police reform.

But it was a debate over sex-ed that occupied much of the Senate’s attention Thursday.

Senate Republicans are up in arms about a program operated by the American Sexual Health Association that receives state funds that allows teenagers to anonymously text questions about sex. In response they tried to amend the budget to prevent these kinds of programs from providing any kind information about sex other than abstinence.

Republican Senator Richard Stuart says the program is dangerous.  “I always thought, and I’ve been a lawyer for a long time, that it was illegal for an adult to text a child to talk about sex," Stuart said Thursday. "Aand there’s a reason it’s illegal because these children are vulnerable.”

But Senator Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria, says the reason the program allows for teens to get answers anonymously is because they are vulnerable.  “92% of sex predators are a family member of a close friend of the abused child. So this would allow kids to anonymously report abuse or ask questions. And a child is at much greater risk of being abused at home than they are of by a credentialed sex educator in another state.”

The budget amendment that would have eliminated the program was defeated on a party line vote.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.