On March 16, Utah Governor Gary Herbert vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed school districts to drop sex education and required abstinence-only instruction in those that kept it.
Just the week before, Utah legislators had passed this bill, HB363, which “defines sex education in Utah as abstinence-only and bans instruction in sexual intercourse, homosexuality, contraceptive methods and sexual activity outside of marriage.”
Three Cheers For Governor Herbert!
As first reported in The Salt Lake Tribune, Herbert made this announcement on his Twitter account: “I just vetoed HB363. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice.”
From The Salt Lake Tribune:
In rejecting the bill Friday, Herbert said that sex education is an emotional topic and instruction should stress the importance of abstinence, but not interfere with parents’ ability to determine how their children are instructed.
“After careful review of existing law and following extensive discussions with stakeholders on both sides of the issue,” Herbert said, “I am convinced the existing statutory framework respects these two principles, while HB363 simply goes too far by constricting parental options.”
The decision followed pressure by thousands of Utahns on both sides of the issue since lawmakers passed HB363: Utahns flooded the governor’s office with thousands of letters, and hundreds rallied against it at the Capitol.
Whose Job Is It To Teach Sex-Ed?
Such response is understandable, since it raises the important question of whose job is it to teach sex education and sexuality? Parents? Teachers? Religious Leaders?
As a classroom teacher, I can say that sometimes issues around sex education emerge during a class and I need to deal with them. And I do believe both teachers and parents should take responsibility. It’s sometimes good for kids to learn sex education from others as well as from their parents.
In addition, some children may take advice and instruction from their school more easily than from mom and dad, and some parents may feel more comfortable having someone else raise these issues with their children.
What Do Utah Parents Want?
From The Salt Lake Tribune:
Herbert also noted in his veto letter that under existing Utah law, parents must give permission in writing before their students can attend portions of any health class dealing with human sexuality.
A recent Tribune survey of the state’s largest school districts, however, found that the vast majority of parents opt in to the instruction.
HB363 would deprive parents of that option, Herbert said.
“I am unwilling to conclude that the State knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children,” he said in his veto letter. “In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement, and more choice — not less. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice.”
Success Of Sex-Ed Programs
For those who believe that by ignoring the issue of sex, it will go away, here’s some useful information: in 2009, a task force working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed studies of 83 comprehensive sex education programs. They found that such programs reduce adolescent risk factors such as engagement in any sexual activity, frequency of sexual activity, number of partners and frequency of unprotected sexual activity. The programs also increase the use of protection against pregnancy and STDs, and reduce the incidence of disease.
The success of such programs prompted the panel to recommend their use. In a similar review of 23 abstinence-only programs, the task force found “insufficient evidence” to recommend them as a strategy for preventing teen pregnancy and STDs.
What Laws Are Other States Enacting?
Last week, the Wisconsin legislature passed a bill mandating that the state’s youth be subject to abstinence-only or abstinence-centered sex education and requiring schools to apply for federal funds for abstinence programming.
However, in Tennessee, lawmakers were expected to take up the now infamous Don’t Say Gay bill two weeks ago, but reports say they have put off considering the legislation until the end of the session.
Had Governor Herbert signed this bill into law, Utah would have become the first state in the nation to specifically ban instruction in contraceptives in public schools.
Thank you, Governor Herbert!
Photo Credit: pondluna