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Sex education bill passes

The state House said yes to sex education Tuesday but bogged down in debate over teaching yoga at school.

Under Florida law, parents who don't want their kids taking classes about sex education and AIDS can exempt them with a written request. Democratic lawmakers Tuesday beat back an attempt to turn that rule around.

Rep. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, offered an amendment to an education bill that would have killed the current opt-out choice. Instead, "only those students whose parents make a written request" would take such instruction.

Wise and others said the amendment would encourage parents to talk to their kids about sex and responsibility. Opponents said it would endanger the children's lives.

"If people are going to advocate that, they haven't got the least understanding of the AIDS issue," said Rep. Elaine Gordon, D-North Miami. "The issue is every child should be taught about a devastating fatal illness that af-fects every single person."

The amendment failed 61-47.

Yoga triggered a livelier debate than sex.

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Orlando, wanted to forbid yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques in public schools unless parents gave their consent.

"All I'm saying is before you're going to do yoga, please go get mom and dad's permission," Feeney said.

The amendment targeted "progressive relaxation" techniques that included turning off lights, reclining, closing eyes, measured breathing, counting backward, tensing and relaxing muscle groups and repeating a single word or phrase.

Rep. Ben Graber, D-Coral Springs, said Feeney's amendment was so broad it would prohibit a teacher from turning off the lights and trying to quiet an unruly class.

"You would tie the hands of teachers," he said. "They would be afraid to do anything but stick to didactic lectures."

As debate dragged on toward the lunch hour, the bill had to be postponed with the amendment pending. The bill deals with the school reform plan giving school boards more authority to operate schools and eliminating state regulations.

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