Lawmakers in Utah passed bill HB363 that would let schools skip teaching sex ed to their students, arguing that providing kids with this kind of information is the responsibility of parents. The bill now awaits signature from the governor.
In a 19-10 vote, senators not only dismissed the need for institutionalized sex education, but also prohibited discussion of and instruction in contraception use. Among the sentiments included was that of Sen. Stuart Reid, who believes that teachers can't be trusted to provide such sensitive information.
"To replace the parent in the school setting, among people who we have no idea what their morals are, we have no ideas what their values are, yet we turn our children over to them to instruct them in the most sensitive sexual activities in their lives, I think is wrongheaded," he said.
But sex educator and published author Jamye Waxman has a reality check for the 19 senators who passed this bill:
"While I understand that in an ideal world parents would be comfortable teaching their children about sex and relationships, we don't live in an ideal world," Waxman said. "Whether or not children learn accurate sex education in school, they will still learn lots of accurate -- and wildly inaccurate -- sex information online. We can't stop that, but we can help steer our children in the right direction by offering accurate sex education both in school and at home."
It appears several lawmakers -- all Democrats coincidentally -- questioned the bill, but were dismissed with this response from Republican Sen. Margaret Datyon:
""I think everybody basically knows where they are on this issue," she said. "Obviously, the senators may speak, but I don't know that it's going to be beneficial for me to try to debate or answer questions."
Unfortunately this bill removes parental choice, putting full responsibility for having the birds and bees talk onto them when, reasonably, many would prefer the subject be taken care of in school along with other issues key to child development.
Waxman echoed the argument made in session by Sen. Pat Jones, who called the bill a "mandate against reality."
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"Sex education programs already come with an opt out clause, so parents already have the option to just say no to sex ed," Waxman said. "Why deny parents who want their children to learn about it in school simply because there are a few who don't?"
Rather than being able to opt out of the class, school districts have only two options: don't teach it at all, or teach abstinence only -- a method already proven to be less effective in promoting pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection prevention, as well as developing emotionally healthy sex lives.
Sen. Ross Romero reminded lawmakers that supporters of this bill appear to assume every child has parents ready and willing to discuss sex -- not the case. Waxman agrees.
"I find it amazing that adults forget what it's like to be children," Waxman said. "Didn't we all want to learn about sex, how to do it, and how to protect ourselves against disease when we did it? So why are we trying to deny that children are curious and deserve honest, accurate information? Sex education is inherently important to growing up healthy and happy."