Arizona
AZ Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, chairing an education committee meeting after pulling her bill earlier in the day (Photo by Harrison Mantas).

A controversial bill that would limit sex education in schools was pulled by the legislation’s sponsor Tuesday due to what she called a mischaracterization of the bill’s intent by the media.

“I’m very upset that this was tagged as an anti-gay bill,” Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, told a crowded Senate hearing room on Tuesday. The bill was scheduled to be read in the Senate Education Committee, which is led by Allen.

Currently, the state laws surrounding sex education define sexual conduct as “acts of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or, if such person is a female, breast.”

The criticism of Allen’s bill stemmed from language that would have removed homosexuality from the state’s definition of sexual conduct, effectively banning the discussion of homosexuality from classrooms. The bill would also have prohibited teaching sexual education before 7th grade.

Allen argued that schools “should remain neutral on controversial topics,” and framed the debate as one about parent rights.

Native American Presidential Forum 2020 kicks off in Las Vegas

The Native American Presidential Forum 2020 kicked off its two-day event in Las Vegas on Tuesday, where six presidential candidates are expected to speak either in person or via video chat. The forum also serves as an opportunity to register voters, inform attendees about the 2020 Census.

National Congress of American Indians CEO Kevin Allis testified before Congress in January that the U.S. Census Bureau is making an effort to hire census workers that will survey remote parts of Indian Country. The count kicked off in rural Alaska earlier this month, and begins in Arizona on April 1.

Eight Democratic candidates attended a similar forum last August in Sioux Falls, Iowa. Mark Trahant, editor for Indian Country Today, told NPR that the newfound attention from presidential candidates “elevates Native American issues to a level that just hasn’t been part of the conversation before.”

Arizona Department of Education looking for Tribal Liaison

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced plans to establish a dedicated tribal liaison position at the Department of Education. The position is part of a larger effort by Hoffman to improve collaboration between educational agencies and tribal nations.

Richie Taylor, communications director for the Arizona Department of Education, said the agency is repurposing a generic liaison position to focus on tribal education issues in the legislature. He specifically mentioned transportation issues that prevent students in more rural parts of the state from attending school.

The department’s tribal liaison will act as a go-between tribal governments and the state education leaders in crafting policies and legislation to better serve tribal communities. Taylor said Hoffman plans to meet with representatives from all 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona in 2020 as part of the process.