Governor rejects sex ed bill
March 20, 2012
Late Friday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert vetoed House Bill 363, a controversial bill that would ban talk of contraceptives in public schools and enforce abstinence-only sex education.
In a press release from Herbert’s office, he cited the importance of human sexuality instruction and said the topic must be approached with care and should primarily come from the home. However, he added, schools should support and supplement the lessons learned at home instead of avoiding the topic.
According to Herbert, any attempt by the State to regulate sex education must stress the importance of abstinence as the only sure method to avoid "the negative effects of premarital sex" and not interfere with a parent’s right to determine if they want their child instructed on the subject.
"After careful review of existing law and following extensive discussions with stakeholders on both sides of the issue, I am convinced the existing statutory framework respects there two principles, while HB 363 simply goes too far by constricting parental options," Herbert said.
Under existing Utah law, parents can choose to remove their children from the sex education portion of health class or they must sign a form allowing their student to take part.
Herbert said that in order for parents to take on more responsibility, "they need more information, more involvement and more choice – not less," adding that he could not sign a bill that deprived parents of their choice.
Park City High School Health Teacher Gail McBride told The Park Record that teaching contraceptives in school is important so students are aware of all their options. She called the current Utah law "the best of both worlds since it offers contraceptive knowledge to those who want it."
Senator Kevin VanTassell (R-Vernal) said that while he did vote for the bill, he was not upset by Governor Herbert’s veto.
"This bill was quite the process," he said. "I heard from a lot of constituents and about one in five were against it, but most were for it, that is why I voted for it. But I do not think the existing law is bad and I don’t think there is enough of a majority for the veto to be over-ruled."
VanTassell said the veto will give Senators an opportunity to go back and tweak the bill but he is unsure if it will be resurrected in the next Legislative session.
"I do not think it is as big of an issue in the districts as the media is making it out to be," he said. "Before the veto, I heard a lot of people thank me for voting for the bill and I know it is an issue for some, but I am not upset by the veto."