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Mark Saal

Editor of GO!

Everyone’s favorite Henny Penny is at it again.

Apparently, the sky is once more falling here in the Land of Zion. And our innocent children are positioned squarely within the impact zone.

It’s been awhile, but lately the Utah Eagle Forum has been attempting to whip the conservative populace in the state into pearl-clutching apoplexy — this time over the wanton S-E-X that overeager schoolteachers are brazenly trying to indoctrinate our children with. (Because, really, what educator didn’t get into the profession to be able to have awkward conversations about sex with teenagers who aren’t their own?)

So then, what’s put the bee in the bonnet of Utah’s favorite morality watchdog group this time? What’s left Utah Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka with the vapors again? It’s a state-produced teacher resource guide subtitled “Answering Commonly Asked Questions About Sex Education.”

The guide includes dozens of frank, commonly asked questions by Utah students, covering everything from “Can girls get pregnant if they have sex standing up?” and “How do gay people have sex?” to “Is masturbation dangerous or bad?” and “If a guy ejaculates over a girl’s underwear or over her clothing, can she become pregnant?”

Along with such frequently asked questions, the guide includes possible teacher responses. All of which, despite Ruzicka’s claims to the contrary, fall within state guidelines for sex education.

Oh, and for those keeping score? The state’s “shocking” suggested answers to the above four questions are:

1) “Girls can become pregnant regardless of the position or the location they are in when they have sexual intercourse.”

2) “This is a technique question, but as with heterosexual couples, intimate behaviors shared by homosexual couples need not be discussed.”

3) “There is no scientific evidence that masturbation is dangerous. In some communities, some families, or religions, masturbation is labeled as morally wrong or ‘bad.’ What might be right or acceptable for one person is not necessarily right or acceptable for another. It is important to accept others personal values and boundaries.”

4) “It is less likely than with penetration, but anytime sperm gets near a girl’s genitals there is a chance she can become pregnant or be exposed to STDs or STIs.”

These are certainly some straightforward, potentially uncomfortable answers. But remember, we’re talking about actual questions being asked by actual Utah teenagers. So given that reality, do we really want our health-ed instructors to be sticking to the “When two people love each other, they have a special way to show it — and then the stork brings them a baby” story?

Don’t take my word in all this, see for yourself. Go to the Utah State Board of Education website at schools.utah.gov, and click on “Departments and Programs,” then “Health Education,” and finally “Resources.” There you’ll find a PDF called “A Teacher’s Guide: Answering Commonly Asked Questions About Sex Education.”

Read the entire seven-page guide. Consider what today’s teenagers face. Then, by all means, let me know what you think.

Ruzicka and a couple dozen other conservatives attended a Utah Board of Education meeting on Thursday to protest the resource guide. But here’s the thing: This isn’t about protecting our children from evil, liberal teachers who would distribute condoms or introduce kids to same-sex couples or tell students that sex with livestock is A-OK by them. It’s Utah, people. Those sorts of protections are already in place.

And remember, sex education in Utah is an opt-in program. Meaning, a parent must sign a release form before his or her student is allowed to attend the class. And even then, parents can identify specific parts of the curriculum that they don’t want their children exposed to.

So, for example, if you don’t want your child to know about contraceptives, you can indicate that on the release form, and on the day that topic is addressed your child will be provided a “safe, supervised place within the school during this class.”

It seems to me that the Utah Board of Education has already tried to bend over backwards to accommodate folks like Ruzicka.

But this isn’t about parents trying to protect their own children in a wicked, wicked world. No, what this is about is a small group of small-minded people insisting that they also ought to be able to raise your children. People who are saying that their morals ought to apply to everyone. People who believe that no 16-year-old should be able to ask a health-ed teacher a hard question about sex.

Now, if the Utah Eagle Forum wants to argue that an opt-in sex education program shouldn’t be taught during the school day and the subject should be totally off-limits, I’d be OK with that. But then, you do realize there’s another opt-in program during the school day that we should probably eliminate as well?

That’s right, brethren and sistern — released-time seminary for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If the Utah Eagle Forum has a problem with sex ed during school hours, then I insist Utah’s public schools should also cease accommodating religious instruction.

Because, seriously, if our teenagers are curious about either of these controversial subjects — sex or religion — they can learn about it the way we did back in my day.

After school, out on the streets.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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