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Sex ed for parents

Published February 14, 2013 1:01 am

Schools should stick to teaching kids
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Many Utah legislators rightly believe that probably the first, and certainly the most important, explanation children get about human sexuality should come from their parents. So it's understandable that some of them may see it as a duty of government to help mom and dad take the initiative.

But putting an obligation to educate parents on the backs of Utah's already burdened educators and education officials with no financial backing is unrealistic and unfair.

SB39 would require the state school board to develop online training for interested parents on how to teach their children about sex. Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said he believes the state board can accomplish this without any additional funding.

That seems a bit unlikely, unless Reid also believes there are employees with technical expertise sitting around in the state office of education twiddling their thumbs. The job would involve designing a website, choosing and presenting content and advertising the availability of the information to parents, and all that costs money.

State Superintendent Martell Menlove has reasonable concerns about the cost. And Menlove also is right when he foresees inevitable problems with choosing content.

One parent may want an explicit description of the proper way to use a condom, while another might see the same explanation as pornographic. Many parents want to interject their moral values regarding sex, as they should, but a state-run website could not constitutionally include anything that approached endorsing a particular religion.

The whole subject of sex education, even for parents, is as touchy as a minefield.

That's why it would be best to focus on sex education for students as a part of their health or biology classes, providing them with professional, objective and factual information in a straightforward manner, as other states do. Reid rightly said schools have an important role when it comes to teaching kids about sex, but Utah school teachers are not allowed under state law to fulfill that role.

This bill would not enhance the inadequate sex education now taught in schools. Utah teenagers are woefully ignorant about how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, as the increasing rates of STDs show.

If they want help, parents have many resources to get them started on that important discussion with their children. Legislators should let Utah educators — and parents — do their jobs.