This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Just when you thought the archaic, reckless attitude toward sex education of a group of conservative Utah legislators couldn't get any worse, it does.
In debating and amending Rep. Bill Wright's misguided HB363, the House made it even more onerous and then passed the new, more insidious version.
If HB363 were to pass the Senate and become law, Utah children would become still more ignorant about the workings of their own bodies and more vulnerable to disease and unwanted childhood pregnancies and abortions.
Whether Wright, a Republican, and his Eagle Forum collaborators want to admit it, knowledge is the only sure weapon that parents and educators have to arm young people against harmful sexual practices. Pretending that teenagers will have no interest in sex if it is not taught in school is simply asinine. To believe that telling them only to abstain from sex until marriage without explaining in detail the consequences of unprotected sex and the alternatives is like telling them that 2 plus 2 is the only possible way to arrive at 4. It's dishonest and irresponsible and ignores the realities of the world in which our young people live.
HB363 would allow, even encourage, school districts to eliminate the rudimentary sex education courses they offer. And it would prohibit all instruction in the purposes and use of contraception in the schools that maintain the classes.
To rely on "don't ask and we won't tell" as an educational philosophy is tantamount to throwing a child into the deep end of the pool with no instruction and no life vest and offering no helping hand as they sink below the surface.
Make no mistake, Utah youths are sinking. They are contracting sexually transmitted diseases at an alarming rate. When teen girls get pregnant, all too often they don't have a clue how it happened. And they certainly don't know how they might have prevented it.
Wright's bill raises this question: If young people don't learn about sex, contraception and STDs in school, where will they learn it? He and the Eagle Forum's Gayle Ruzicka seem confident that parents will do the job and do it well. Obviously, considering the statistics, that's not happening.
Children will seek knowledge on these subjects, no matter what little they hear, or don't hear, at home or in school. What misinformation they learn outside school, mostly from one another, can ruin their lives.
Wright says sex education is teaching children "about having sex and how to get away with it." Yes, it is. And that's precisely what is needed. Because right now they are having sex and not getting away with it.