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Hoffman says HIV instruction law discriminates against LGBTQ students

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — The top education official in Arizona argued a state law restricting HIV and AIDS instruction is harmful and discriminates against LGBTQ students.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday that the 1991 law restricts students from learning about all types of healthy relationships.

A lawsuit, filed on behalf of Equality Arizona, alleges the law constitutes unconstitutional discrimination and restricts educational opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

It argued the law communicates to students and teachers “that there is something so undesirable, shameful, or controversial about `homosexuality’ that any positive portrayals of LGBTQ people or same-sex relationships must be explicitly barred.”

“Our students should have access to learning comprehensive, scientifically accurate learning material in their health education classes and this law has made our LGBTQ students not feel safe or supported in our schools,” Hoffman, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said.

Arizona is one of seven states with laws prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality.

The Arizona law prohibits HIV and AIDS instruction that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle,” “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle” or “suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

Cathi Herrod, the president for Center for Arizona Policy, said in a statement to KTAR News that the law should remain in place because it “only applies to instruction on AIDS.

“It does not apply to any other classroom instruction or discussion. Because we are talking about the safety of our children, AIDS education must be based in fact.”

But Herrod, who declined to comment further, said students should not be bullied and marginalized, and that harassment is unacceptable and a separate issue from the law in question.

Hoffman said she has made repealing the law one of her top priorities after she was sworn into office earlier this year.

“I have seen first-hand in the classrooms that our teachers avoid discussing LGBTQ topics because they believe it is illegal for them to discuss these topics in the classroom, even when our students in the LGBTQ community and their families truly need to know that they’re included and they should feel safe and welcome in our classrooms.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer and Taylor Kinnerup and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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