Utah students may no longer be the only ones getting a lesson in sex education. Lawmakers are considering new human sexuality and health education courses for parents to help them teach the often-uncomfortable sex ed lesson to their children at home. While lawmakers agree there is room for improvement to sex ed in schools, they question the cost and effectiveness of this plan.
Last year Utah lawmakers tried to ban anything but abstinence-only sex education in schools. The bill was vetoed by Governor Gary Herbert. But now the Education Interim Committee is considering new legislation aimed at providing sex education at home. The idea is sex education for parents.
"Somewhere along the line, we decided it was very important. I say we, somebody decided that we teach sex in school. It wasn’t my decision," says Republican Senator Stuart Reid,"I wouldn’t have supported that."
Senator Reid proposed the new bill, putting forth the idea of offering face-to-face training to parents on sex education as well as developing an online resource for parents to use as a tool when talking about sex with their children.
"What I am trying to attempt here is to provide a resource for the parents, where they can get a little bit of training so they feel equipped, feel comfortable, and then they will take the responsibility back and teach it within their own home. And I think teaching sexuality based on their values and their morals that are appropriate for their families."
Reid says he doesn’t intend for the bill to be used to eliminate sex education in schools. But he believes the state’s educators are being relied on too much to teach everything, and says an intimate topic like sex should be taught to children by their parents. The proposed legislation would require the State Board of Education to offer training and instructional resources to parents to assist them in teaching health and human sexuality to their children. Reid says he believes there would be minimal costs associated with it.
Democratic Representative Patrice Arent says while she agrees parents and students need better sex education, she doesn’t buy the idea that providing sex education training to parents would be cheap:
"It’s hard for me to believe its minimal cost and I appreciate that’s the information you are getting but a program that involves setting up meetings in various locations throughout the state, so parents can get to a convenient location at a convenient time, preparing materials to handout I just cant imagine there is not a significant cost to that."
Senator Howard Stephenson says he questions how effective the parent training would be, since there would be no way of quantifying what kind of training parents receive. He suggests creating a statewide website that has training options from both Planned Parenthood and what he describes as a family-based philosophy for parents to choose from: "Have them have their children go on the web and have some interactive kind of instruction for that appropriate age or maturity level deepening on what the parents judgments are."
Senator Reid is discussing possibilities for this kind of parent training with incoming state superintendent of instruction Martell Menlove. The committee is now taking the proposed legislation under consideration.