Bill restricting sex ed passes the House
Utah’s school children may have to go somewhere besides school to learn about alternative methods of family planning after a bill banning talk of contraceptives in health class was approved by the State House of Representatives with a vote of 45-to-28.
House Bill 363, sponsored by Bill Wright (R-Holden) would require teachers to only teach abstinence as a form of preventing pregnancy. Schools could also opt out of teaching sex education altogether.
Representative Mel Brown (R-Heber) said he voted for the bill because it gives schools a choice.
"Schools do not need to teach sex education with the guidelines we are proposing, they have the choice to not teach it all," Brown said. "I think someone should have an input in what our students are taught in sex ed besides Planned Parenthood. This is the Legislature’s way of making sure we have some input in students’ education."
Summit County’s other representative, Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) and Kraig Powell (R-Heber) voted against the bill
Powell, who serves on the Education Committee in the Utah House of Representatives, said that he was disappointed that the bill passed the House, even after hours of debate.
"When this bill was brought to our committee, I opposed it. But when I realized it probably would pass I decided to at least add an amendment to it," Powell said. "I took out the language that said you could not talk about contraceptives because I though it would make the bill more acceptable for most schools."
Powell’s amendment passed the Education Committee 8-7 but was removed from the bill during the floor debate last Wednesday.
"I was really disappointed by the vote overall and that my amendment was reversed," Powell said. "It is putting teachers in a difficult situation where they cannot have a full discussion on human sexuality. This bill is killing freedom in the classroom and taking away the variety and diversity of viewpoints that are held by schools and parents throughout the state."
The Senate had its first reading of the bill on Thursday. Powell said the Senate has "its own personality" and he thinks they will make some amendments to the bill that would make it more acceptable.
Utah Planned Parenthood CEO Karrie Galloway said now that the bill has passed the House, the group will lobby harder against it and will try to show senators that the bill is about educating kids, not Planned Parenthood or specific beliefs.
"We are working with a lot of coalitions against this bill because we feel that the compromise we have now is good because school districts can choose what to teach," she said.
Galloway added that no matter what happens with House Bill 363, Planned Parenthood will continue to provide safe sex information and services for anyone who needs them.
"We are still here," she said. "We don’t want this issue to be about us, it is about the kids. Rep. Wright said that Planned Parenthood has crept into the school system and that is one of the reasons for his bill, but that is not true. We only offer services to people who need us and only come when we are asked."
Park City Superintendent Ray Timothy said that he has concerns about the bill and that the current curriculum for human sexuality is so scripted it is unlikely a teacher could teach anything that would be considered highly offensive to a parent.
"The Utah Parent Teacher Association is against this bill and no one is more concerned about the students’ welfare than them," he said. "Human sexuality is something that needs to be taught."
Timothy added that the Utah Superintendent and School Board Association has not issued a formal opinion on the bill yet because they have been too busy with other bills dealing with education. According to Timothy, there are more than 90 education-related bills in the legislature this year.
House Bill 363 is sponsored by John Valentine (R-Orem) in the Senate.
The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a City Hall workforce or otherwise restricted housing development slated for the northern reaches of Old Town.