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Rolly: Utah school district shelves health books because of sex talk

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Paul Rolly

By PAUL ROLLY

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 06 2014 09:25PM
Updated Feb 28, 2014 08:59AM

Canyons School District bought new health textbooks for its five high schools intended for use this school year.

Alas, the textbooks are sitting in storage rooms and likely won’t be used until 2014-15.

After the books were delivered, a whole section on sexually transmitted diseases caught the attention of health teachers because state law and district policy forbid them from discussing STDs in the manner they are dealt with in the texts.

District officials thought they had a solution. They gathered all the books and snipped out that section, Pages 398 to 417. But they left in the section’s summary page, which recapped the discussion, along with the section quiz, which did the same thing.

Even after removing the objectionable pages, though, teachers raised other concerns.

Page 146, for example, talks about gay and lesbian partnerships. Pages 147 and 148 discuss gay and lesbian alternative paths to creating a family, as well as artificial insemination. District policy states that "advocacy of homosexuality" shall not be taught.

Page 149 contains a chart about sharing sexual histories and practicing safe sex. District policy states that "advocacy of contraceptive methods" shall not be taught.

Pages 151 through 153 address topics such as sexual identity, sexual orientation and gay and lesbian relationships. District policy states that "advocacy of homosexuality and the advocacy of sexual relations outside of marriage or sexual promiscuity" shall not be taught.

Page 158 discusses human sexual response, including sexual experiences from different partners and "stimulation by a partner or self-stimulation." Those topics are also no-nos, according to district policy.

Even so, the cover of the textbook says it is a "custom edition for Canyons School District."

The textbook was published by Pearson Learning Solutions, whose website says it is an "innovative learning company that collaborates with institutions and educators to provide customized and personalized educational solutions and services that help to improve student outcomes."

An email from one curriculum adviser to the health teachers apologized for the confusion, noting that "in providing the publisher with specifics about edits, we failed to communicate clearly the edits for Chapter 13."

District spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook says the reviews and ultimate shelving of the books are just part of the editing process.

The publisher sent 315 books, as classroom sets, to the district for a total cost of $24,000.

The publisher will make the changes necessary to abide by state law and district policy before releasing the full order of books for about 3,000 students.

The district hoped to begin using the books in January, she said, but now might not use them until next school year.

Collateral damage • Uintah Elementary in the Salt Lake City School District has received hundreds of derogatory and profane emails from around the nation since news reports said that dozens of children had their school lunches thrown away because their parents were behind on their meal fees.

But it’s not the only one.

Vernal-based Uintah School District has gotten more than 100 nasty emails in a case of mistaken identity. The eastern Utah district has posted a notice on its website that it is not the party that threw away the lunches. It refers commenters to the Salt Lake City School District site.

And Weber County’s Uintah Elementary also has received a number of mean emails. It, too, has posted a disclaimer.

Fighting words? • Of all the quotes from the Founding Fathers that could be used to instill patriotism and pride, this is the one that newly appointed Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes chose for his office’s website, under the "Our Office" section:

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." — Thomas Jefferson

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