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In no uncertain terms, the majority of Utahns and the governor rejected a bill to scale back sex education in schools earlier this year.
But lawmakers aren't done with sex education just yet. A proposal to increase sex education for parents will get its first public hearing Wednesday.
The Education Interim Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to discuss a bill that would require the state school board to develop a sex education training program for parents. The idea is that parents could then use the information they learned, along with an online program, to teach their kids about the birds and the bees in the privacy of their own homes.
The bill wouldn't change sex education offerings in schools, and it would be free and voluntary for parents. But the bill would address an argument often cited by opponents of HB363 earlier this year that schools should teach sex education because not all parents have the desire or knowledge to teach it themselves.
"My belief is the discussion really should be about parental responsibility," said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, who plans to sponsor the bill. "Our first instinct shouldn't be to turn this over to the education community … It should first start in the home."
Reid said it's not that parents don't understand sex, it's more that they don't know how to teach certain concepts to their kids or at what ages to begin. Reid said he envisions the State Office of Education holding training sessions across the state once or twice a year where parents would be given codes to access the online program. Reid said Monday he did not yet know how much it would cost the state to implement such a program.
"I think we've kind of lost our way where we think the school is there to solve all of our problems," Reid said.
It's a proposal that, so far, is earning support from those who stood on both sides of the battle over HB363. That bill would have allowed Utah school districts to drop sex education and would have prohibited those that kept it from teaching teens about contraception. Ultimately, Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed the bill, saying it seemed to take away parental choice because parents may already remove their kids from sex education lessons, but most choose not to.
Gayle Ruzicka, head of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, which supported HB363, called Reid's proposal "a great idea." She said the best way to teach sex education is in the home with parents.
"There's so many parents that, if they had that information in front of them, would not only feel more comfortable but be far more apt to do it," Ruzicka said. "I imagine it will work very well."
Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, which opposed HB363, said "We are supportive of any and all attempts to encourage parents and their children to discuss sexuality issues.
"We applaud whatever can be done for more discussion between parents and their kids," she said, but adding that she'd hate to see the program used in lieu of sex education for all kids in schools.
The Education Interim Committee will likely hear a discussion of the bill Wednesday and could, at that time, vote to endorse it as a committee bill. Either way, the bill would still have to pass both houses of the Legislature and earn the governor's signature next year to become law.
Committee to discuss proposal to help parents teach sex ed at home
P The Education Interim Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill that would require the state school board to develop and offer sex-education training for parents to use with their children.
The committee is scheduled to consider the bill at its 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday in Room 30 of the House Building at the state Capitol. Or, you can listen to the meeting online. > le.utah.gov