Lawmaker wants a rewrite of Utah’s sex ed curriculum

SALT LAKE CITY -- The House Minority Leader is trying to rewrite Utah's sexual education curriculum, broadening it from "abstinence based" to "comprehensive sexual education."

That would include contraception and access to contraception, Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13.

"There's no question if you're serious about reducing unplanned pregnancies, if you're serious about reducing sexually transmitted diseases, if you're serious about reducing reproductive cancers, if you're serious about reducing abortion, you have to provide information," King said. "Education that's solid and accurate to individuals about sexual activities and the risks it carries, how to mitigate those risks and you have to provide access to contraception."

King is wrapping the changes to Utah's sex education laws in a bill that would create a funding mechanism through Medicaid. He told FOX 13 he is also making changes to Utah code because of a federal appeals court ruling.

"Remove the criminal sanction for both providing contraceptives, which has already been struck down, and for instructing individuals about contraceptives," he said.

King acknowledged that he faced an uphill battle with the Utah State Legislature's conservative majority.

"To me, it's not a moral issue, it's an issue of knowledge is power," King said.

The bill is certain to face strong opposition from social conservatives, including the Utah Eagle Forum.

"I wonder why someone keeps bringing back comprehensive sex education bills," said Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka. "Because in Utah, we don't pass comprehensive sex education bills. Our abstinence-based sex education has always worked."

Ruzicka argued the state has low abortion, STD and unplanned pregnancy rates and she credited it to the state's sex education program.

"If you teach children all about contraceptives -- how to do it, when to do it, why to do it, then basically saying to those children you expect them to do it," she said Thursday. "If you teach them about abstinence, then you're sending that message that's what you expect from them and they'll do the right thing. That's why it's worked so well in Utah."

Currently, Utah teaches an abstinence-based sex education curriculum. The Utah State Office of Education said it varies from school district to school district on what exactly is taught when it comes to things like STDs and pregnancy. Teachers are not allowed to advocate or encourage contraceptives, the office said.

Utah Administrative Code rules state that parents must "opt in" when it comes to their children being taught sex education in schools, by signing permission slips. The Utah State Office of Education said it did not keep numbers of how many students received sex ed -- those numbers are kept (with the forms) by the district.

King said he planned to keep the parental permission slips, if his bill were to pass.

"Bring 'em on," he said of opponents to his bill. "Look, this is good public policy. It's fact-based legislation. Let's do what's right. Let's base it on facts and evidence and let's move ahead in a way that acknowledges the realities in the world in which we live."

26 comments

  • FinnyWiggen

    We have a low teenage pregnancy rate, and even better, we have a lower overall rate of kids having sex than other states.

    What exactly is broken?

    This change would only promote a higher rate of teens engaging in intimacy.

    No doubt the pregnancy rate would remain low, but what exactly is the purpose of decreasing the age when children engage in adult behaviour?

    Why is this guy advocating for this? What logic is he basing his advocacy on exactly?

    How about we keep the policy we have, and the excellent results that go along with it!!

  • AC

    The reason we have low rates, is becasue of the dominant religion in our state (of which I am a member of) not because of the educational policy, the proposed policy isnt going to make more lds kids have sex, it will help those who do it anyway or are non members know more about what they are doing and different options they have, and will probably lower these rates even more.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Finny Wiggen

      Really? You don’t think that teaching kids how to have sex, and providing them with birth control in school is not going to increase the rate at which they have sex?

      It is one thing to have values. It is a whole other thing to live up to them. When you are an 17 year old, and those hormones are going off like crazy, and you have a girl friend or boyfriend, who you spend all your time with, and who you are very comfortable with, it takes every ounce of will power to live up to who you are. Every single ounce.

      The last thing you want or need is someone teaching you that it is okay to give in, and oh… here are the contraceptives…

      Give me a break!

      I have no doubt that the pregnancy rate would remain low. I also have no doubt that the rate of kids engaging in intimate acts would increase. Thus deductible reason leads to the conclusion that the only thing that this policy would achieve is more kids engaging in adult behavior.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      @AC
      If our goal is to “help those who do it anyway” we should probably go whole hog with the “comprehensive sexual education” thing. We should include a “condom availability program” perhaps include a “practical application” facility where our children could practice “safe sex” under the watchful eye of certified educators.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    Issues of morality should be taught in the home. Many of today’s social ills are a direct result of that lack of leadership in the home. A perfect example was the gang rape of an 18-year old by 5 teenagers in New York. Schools should teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, and let birth control be taught in the home.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    Why stop short with only a “comprehensive sexual education” program? In New York they have a condom availability program.

  • AntiBob

    If we leave the “sex talk” for parents, many children will never become properly educated about it. Abstinence only teaching has proven not to work, just Google it. By teaching comprehensive sex ed, teens will learn that sex is not taboo and engaging in unprotected sex can be dangerous. Finny is incorrect, teaching “abstinence only” is useless, teens WILL learn about sex through other outlets (i.e. the internet, friends at school), it’s inevitable. These outlets may glorify sex and teens can be easily misinformed. Teens benefit from learning about sexual safety, STD risks, contraception options, etc – it’s always better to be well informed rather than ignorant!

    • HYRUM_JUSTICE

      Do you really think the football players that take turns with the girls who are willing have any respect for them? Do you think the girls who are willing have any self respect for themselves? There is nothing wrong with teaching children the advantages associated with living moral clean lives.

    • TRUTH

      The guy that gets lucky with you today may very well feel grateful, truly grateful, for a while and then he’ll go off in search of something new that he can feel even more grateful for.
      In the meantime Antibob don’t sell today’s youth short. They aren’t anymore ignorant than you are.

  • HYRUM_JUSTICE

    What people like Antibob fail to mention is that the boys in school know which girls will and which ones won’t, and they pass that information around. You’re only kidding yourself if you think the boys have any respect for the girls who put out.

  • TRISH RAMIREZ

    Young men who’ve kept themselves morally clean in high school want to marry women who share their same values. Girls who’ve slept around always seem surprised when the men they marry continue to sleep around with whatever is available after marriage. Why not?

  • practical parent

    Arm our children with knowledge. Education starts everywhere with everyone. Support of choices is for the home. If your child is adult enough to ask for birth control or condoms for protection. Then you have taught them the consequences of their actions. That is where your influence ends and where their choices begin. Shame on the parent who refuses to arm their child.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      @PRACTICAL (INDULGENT) PARENT
      Oh for heavens sake!! When your minor child asks for alcohol do you provided it? Arm you child with the knowledge that $ex is a sacrament reserved for marriage. Tell your daughters that the boys that get lucky with loose girls have no respect for them. Shame on the parent who neglects their responsibility to teach them Morality 101.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    Practical Parent needs to sit down with their children and explain the LGBTQQIP2SAA acronym to them. We wouldn’t them running around without their unlimited number of potential choices and partners.

  • todaysyouth

    I am one of “today’s youth” growing up in Utah. I attended Catholic, non-denominational Christian, and public schools both in state and out of state. From my experience, students who were taught a comprehensive sex education were smarter and healthier (mentally, emotionally, and physically) than their abstinence-only taught peers. I remember sitting in an abstinence based sex-ed class and being appalled at the questions fellow students were asking — they were embarrassingly misinformed and had hyperbolically skewed perceptions about the realities of sex.

    I was always taught moral values and self-respect at home in addition to a comprehensive sex education at school (as well as “The Talk” from my parents) and have been with only one person — who I married — as a result. I have several friends who now struggle with intimacy problems, both emotional and physical (and I’m not just talking about the physical act of sex here), because of guilt and lack of knowledge associated with their abstinence only sex education.

    It is possible to be informed about the realities of sex from a comprehensive sex-ed in school AND be true to your moral compass as taught and demonstrated in church or by parents. We are approaching adulthood at this age and are gaining our own agency. It is better we be informed and make smart choices about the realities of the world that surround us, especially at a time in our development when sex is something that absolutely cannot be ignored.

    Antibob is right; we will find out about sex one way or anther at this age — whether it be via movies, easy-to-access porn, or racy rumors at school: it IS inevitable.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      Adults always smile when they hear what children believe to be wisdom. Wisdom comes with maturity, and mature adults know that promiscuity leads to sorrow and loss of self respect.

      • MITCH

        It’s difficult to take comments seriously from a “mature adult” who can’t bring themselves to type out the word ‘sex’ and without censoring it with a ‘$’.

      • ANOTHERBOB

        @MITCH
        It is difficult to take anybody seriously who belong to the LGBTQ community and is confused about their sexuality.

  • The Professor

    While I agree that it is best for parents to teach their children, far too many parents fail to take on that responsibility. I teach college health and I have had students in their early twenties whose parents haven’t even taught them basics like the menstrual cycle. To me, that is child neglect. I’ve also had students who got STIs and when we talk about it openly and honestly in college, they are shocked that no one ever told them that using a condom is safer sex and that the disease might have been prevented. We don’t give youth enough credit. They need to be taught facts from reliable sources and not get their information from movies, pornography, or from ignorant friends. It would be nice if parents had to take a class on how to talk to their kids about these kinds of things. Unfortunately, most parents of teens that I know can’t even use correct terms for basic male and female anatomy. I am all for better sex education in Utah schools.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      @THE PROFESSOR
      You’d be surprised at how many professors live screwed up $esxual lives, and are confused about their own $exuality. And you want these folks educating our children on a subject they don’t understand themselves?

      • The Professor

        Bob, I can assure you that I am not “messed up” sexually. I have been married to the same person for 33 years, I attend church every week, I live in Utah county, and I have two adult daughters. I just see what college students are going through and their lack of knowledge can actually kill them (HIV, cervical cancer, etc…).

  • ANOTHERBOB

    May I suggest that you can purchase all the education you want down on West 2nd South in Salt Lake City. The ladies there would even provide the protection the liberals all seem to think solves all the associated problems.

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