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A group of Herriman parents who claim a middle school health teacher gave students information about sex that isn't allowed under state law are working with a lawmaker to seek criminal penalties for such behavior.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, opened a bill file this week and said he will introduce legislation in January that would enforce criminal penalties on teachers who deviate from state law governing sex education, which requires that it focus on physical and emotional development of adolescents, healthy relationships and the threat and prevention of diseases. The law prohibits promoting or encouraging sexual behavior. His bill also would create a registry to record the names of teachers who violate the law.
"Right now what a teacher is allowed to teach regarding sex education is very clearly defined in statute. The problem is that if a teacher violates that law or if an administrator allows that law to be violated, the only repercussion is administrative," Wimmer said.
Wimmer said he decided to act after hearing this week from parents about an incident at Fort Herriman Middle School. The Jordan School District is investigating allegations that a seventh- and eighth-grade health teacher violated the sex education statute by responding to questions from students about topics beyond the core curriculum, including homosexual sex, oral sex and masturbation.
School staff met with parents Wednesday and Thursday to describe the investigation process, and told them the teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave, probably through the end of the school year.
"The district is conducting an investigation and they are taking this extremely serious," Principal Michael Sirois said. "My job is to get all the information together."
The teacher retired after 30 years in another district and was in her first year at Fort Herriman, according to Melinda Colton, spokeswoman for the Jordan district.
Attempts to reach the teacher Thursday were unsuccessful.
Thursday morning, students put up signs at the school supporting the teacher that read, "We were the ones asking her questions."
Sirois said he took down the signs because he does not want the matter to become divisive while it is still under investigation.
"I'm really angry right now. I want someone to apologize to those kids and say 'I'm sorry this is not part of the curriculum,' " said Sara Dewitt, a parent who said she first heard about the teacher's comments from her child last Friday.
Dewitt called other parents in the area to inform them what she had learned from her son and advised them to talk to their own children.
Dewayne Smith, who is also the parent of an eighth-grade student at Fort Herriman, said he believes parents want the investigation to take its course so there can be a fair and equitable resolution.
A group of about 50 parents has unofficially organized to make sure there are checks and balances in the process.
"We are the parents. . . . We will require accountability on the part of the district," Smith said.