Student to Student
House Bill 363, requiring abstinence-only sex education programs for all Utah public schools, passed the legislature and has moved to the governor’s desk. Governor Herbert must either approve or veto the bill by the end of the month. This bill removes a valuable resource for teens that is supported by a majority of parents and educators.
I urge you to ask Governor Herbert to veto H.B. 363. You can reach him on Facebook or Twitter, or you can sign a petition on SignOn.org urging him to veto the bill. To date, that petition has more than 40,000 signatures.
Teenagers are brought up in a society where teen pregnancy is frowned upon, yet this bill provides no opportunity for teenagers to inform themselves about the risks of unprotected sex. H.B. 363 eliminates discussion of contraception or family planning as a means of protection from STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Any discussion of premarital sexual activity is also banned from the discussion.
How can we tell our children not to have sex without giving reasons why? We are setting teens up for failure and denying them guidance at a critical and confusing time of personal development.
Many legislators have stated that sex is an issue that should be taught not in school but in the home by parents who can instill values consistent with their beliefs. However, the purpose of a public school sex-education program is not to instruct students about morality, but rather provide objective information backed by statistical fact.
At no point in the present curriculum do teachers tell students what kinds of decisions they should be making. This new bill does exactly that it forces the ideas that sex before marriage is damaging and the only protective measure is abstinence.
"I think that they should incorporate contraception and abstinence, all the different areas and all the different views on it, into the course," said PCHS senior Kylee Minardi.
The current curriculum includes an opt-out alternative, which allows parents to choose if their child will participate in sex education lessons. In the past, few Park City parents have exercised this option. An overwhelming majority choose to have their students informed about sex.
"I can only think of a couple times when parents have opted out," said Park City High School health teacher Gail McBride.
McBride has been teaching at Park City High School since 1977.
The practical applications of H.B. 363 are unrealistic. Few parents have the resources or the information to provide their children with comprehensive sex education in the home. Many are unwilling or uncomfortable having these discussions with their children.
"I teach (sex education) and I don’t have all the materials at home, nor would I put a slide presentation with pros and cons together at home," said McBride.
At the same time, many teens are uncomfortable asking their parents tough questions about sex.
"I think that a lot of kids are afraid to talk to their parents about it. Being taught in school with other peers makes (sex) not as big of an issue for students, and they’re more comfortable with the information," said Minardi.
McBride explained that sex-education programs in school open up valuable family conversations, at which point parents may step in with moral instruction.
"When you have a discussion in class it’s easy to go home and say to a parent, ‘In class we learned ‘ It’s a great conversation starter," said McBride.
The reality is that teenagers will leave the protective sphere of parental influence sooner than many parents would like to believe. The parents’ role is to instill values in their children to prepare them for making decisions in the real world. Knowing this, isn’t it better to let your child make an informed decision about sex, understanding all the options and risks?
"Sex is a part of life. If we don’t learn about safe sex now it will create problems later," said PCHS senior Hunter Loomis. "You need to learn what to do to protect yourself in a sexual situation."
The true disappointment is that legislators and conservative parents will not suffer the consequences of this flawed legislation. The burden will fall on confused and ignorant teenagers.
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