Sex education optional under Utah bill

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:13 AM

Josh Loftin

SALT LAKE CITY— School districts in Utah could forgo the teaching of sex education and instruction about using contraception would be prohibited under a bill that passed a House committee Thursday.

Committee members, however, backed away from an abstinence-only requirement that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, said was needed to protect the innocence of students.

Instead, House Bill 363 was amended by the House Education Committee to allow teachers to discuss contraception, homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. But they cannot advocate for any of those things.

After the amendment, HB 363 narrowly passed the committee on an 8-7 vote.

Following the amendment, the bill is very similar to current state law that allows parents to remove their children from sex education courses and gives districts the option of choosing an abstinence-only curriculum. The only significant change is allowing individual districts to opt-out of sex education entirely.

Wright said students should only be taught abstinence because it is the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy.

"It might be the only place that some students hear about abstinence," Wright said. "We’re not denying them anything. We’re giving them an opportunity to hear about something that maybe nobody has ever taught them."

Prohibiting the discussion of other topics was needlessly restrictive and hampered the ability of teachers to educate, Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, said.

"I worry about micromanaging our teachers," Arent said.

There was a concern that the changes would extend to other subjects, such as classic literature that includes infidelity.

"It is so broad we have no idea what good results or bad results it might cause," said Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, who made the motion that amended the bill to remove the abstinence-only requirement.

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