Fallout Over Sex Education Bill Continues
Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schencker
March 15, 2012
Fallout over a recently passed sex education bill continued Thursday with Democrats saying it could hurt concurrent enrollment offerings in high schools and two Republican lawmakers saying they’re working on a long-term solution to the disagreement.
The bill, HB363, would allow school districts to drop sex education classes and require those that keep them to teach only abstinence, which would mean no instruction in contraception.
In light of that, Weber State University (WSU) this week contacted the Weber and Davis school districts, for which it provides concurrent enrollment classes, to discuss whether HB363 could create problems regarding certain courses in child and family studies and health professions, said John Kowalewski, WSU spokesman. He said the districts indicated those courses might clash with that bill, as they discuss human sexuality outside of marriage.
Students who take concurrent enrollment classes can earn college credit while in high school.
Attempts to reach bill sponsor Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, for comment Thursday evening were not immediately successful, but Wright has said that his bill would affect only sex education classes, not other courses. Ultimately, if the bill becomes law, it would be up to the state school board to work with lawmakers, parents, teachers and others to write the specifics of how it should be implemented.
Kowalewski said if the courses conflicted with the law, the university might have to stop offering credit to high schoolers for them because WSU does not give university credit for concurrent enrollment courses unless they’re the same as those taught at WSU. Kowalewski said this school year about 1,000 high school students took those classes. He said the Governor’s Office has asked WSU to provide additional information about the courses.
House Democrats sent out a news release Thursday about the issue at WSU.
Meanwhile, two Republican lawmakers said Thursday they are trying to figure out a long-term solution to the disagreement over HB363 that has gripped Utah since its passage.
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, and Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, plan to spend time before next year’s legislative session working with interested groups to see if there’s a way to provide lessons on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases to students — but online and in their homes, Osmond said.
The concept is still in the very earliest stages, but Osmond said the idea is an attempt to give parents who still want their kids to learn more than abstinence-only material from a trusted source that option. Both lawmakers said they still believe passing HB363 was the right thing to do.
McCay said he believes there’s a solution out there to sex education "that doesn’t frustrate the public as much as this has." McCay said it seems like the "biggest consternation is that we’ve cut out a lot of parental choice in the process."
"The information that was presented to the Legislature as, ‘This is what is happening in our classrooms,’ were outlying examples and were the exception and not the rule," McCay said.
During legislative debate, bill sponsors Wright, and Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, repeatedly had said one of the main reasons to pass the bill was to get Planned Parenthood materials out of classrooms. The State Office of Education, however, had already, in 2011, pulled its official approval of a Planned Parenthood program, which was intended for fifth- and sixth-grade maturation lessons, not sex education.
Both Osmond and McCay said they still believe passing HB363 was the right thing to do, but they think there’s more that can be done.
"In my opinion the decision is based more on people making good choices and parents having the ability to make choices," McCay said. "That’s really the key. I don’t know that necessarily that we’ve really gone where we need to on this bill."
The governor has said he will likely make a decision on the bill next week.
Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.