The documentary video included with this article was produced by STV Productions.
My legislative district in St. George, Utah is conservative, and
I am conservative. Yet, I am running legislation to promote contraceptive
education. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.
Though we can — and should — wrestle to our heart’s content on
issues of correct curriculum, three facts remain at the end of the day,
independent of political affiliation: humans like sex, some kids are going to
have sex, and information can avert tragedy. My task in working with a
conservative district in a conservative state is to implement policy that
balances those three realities with strong public preferences for local control and an abstinence message to youth.
As the legislative process kicks, pokes or promotes my bills, I
realize that it is moving my legislation where it needs to be. Those prompts,
as well as the end result, would be different in different states. And that’s
appropriate. It leads to a representative and responsive government.
story of how sex ed has been kicked, poked and promoted in Utah.
Last year, Rep. Lynn Hemingway, a Democrat, ran a sex ed bill. The system told Lynn that he needed Republican
involvement in a legislature with Republican supermajorities in the House and
in the Senate. On a different bill — involving expedited partner therapy for
chlamydia and gonorrhea — the process told me that I needed to pay more
attention to the sexual health of Utah’s teens.
My immediate involvement in sex ed was to augment local control
elements — with districts, instead of the state, determining how instruction
would be delivered. Even then, the process told us that we didn’t move enough
toward local control. Local districts would need to have more control in
preparing instructional materials.
The process taught us that talismanic language in existing code
cannot be touched. Thus, SHALL NOT language has to be preserved regarding
things that can’t be taught (e.g., same-sex relationships and kama sutra stuff);
the key is to clarify that, even with those restrictions, contraceptive
education does not violate state policy and curriculum.
Put it all together, and I believe we will pass a bill that
improves existing sex ed instruction (where 36 out of 40 districts claim to
include contraceptives discussions) by requiring districts to publicly examine
sex ed instruction every three years (thus making sure actual instruction is
matching policy) and by clarifying that contraceptives can be discussed in Utah
classrooms. Importantly, districts also will be required to notify parents that
instructional materials on contraceptives have been prepared by the state and
the district, if the district desires. Parents, being in charge of the sex
educations of their children, can review and discuss those materials with their
children. It is simply a tool that parents can utilize.
I believe that Utah will pass legislation that empowers parents
and children regarding sexual matters. I believe that every state can get
there, by pointing the passion that parents have on the issue of sex ed toward
the healthy discussions that can occur in legislative bodies honestly looking
for solutions to society’s complex problems.