Teens rally at Capitol to support sex-ed bill

They say they aren't getting adequate info in public schools

Published: Friday, Jan. 22 2010 12:45 a.m. MST

In an event organized by the Planned Parenthood Action Council, students rally for bill to revamp sex education.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — About 40 students rallied on the Capitol rotunda stairs Thursday in support of a revamped sex-education bill sponsored by Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George.

Teens chanted "We want truth for our youth" and waved signs that read "Just say 'know' to sex education."

The event was organized by the Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, which has been working with Urquhart on the bill.

Currently, educators may teach about contraception options with prior parental consent. However, some people say that's not enough.

Melissa Bird, PPAC executive director, said the bill "really clarifies the language in the current statute," including emphasizing parents are the primary educators of their children. It also requires instruction be age-appropriate and medically accurate and it clarifies the limits of contraceptive education.

"It puts the power into parents' hands as far as what their young people are going to be taught," Bird said.

The state PTA has had much input on Urquhart's bill, but whether it will officially endorse it will be announced after PTA officials meet Wednesday.

Liz Zentner, Utah PTA health commissioner, said they were hoping the bill would allow school districts more control over the level of sex education instead of having a uniform curriculum created by the State Office of Education.

Some teens, education officials and lawmakers say the problem with Utah's sex education is teachers are afraid of being accused of advocating sex so are therefore erring on the side of caution by eliminating important information.

Utah State University freshman Freddy Novoa, 18, a West High School graduate, said he "definitely did not" get adequate sex education in high school. "And my parents didn't want to talk to me about it," he said. "I had to learn stuff from my friends."

PPAC has approximately 10,000 signatures statewide on a petition that states they support "comprehensive reproductive health education in Utah schools."

Several of the teens at Thursday's rally were from private schools. "Since I go to private school, I get sex education. I would like other people who go to public schools to get it too," said Jackie Morgan, 14, an eighth-grader at J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic High School.

She and other rally participants wore shirts supplied by PPAC that read: "We can handle the truth," and buttons that said: "Don't put education in the back seat."

Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake, was sponsoring the original sex-education bill before delegating it to Urquhart with the idea that kicking it off in the Senate would boost the bill's survival rate.

e-mail: astewart@desnews.com

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