Will concurrent courses get ax if sex ed bill becomes law?

Published: Thursday, March 15 2012 10:05 p.m. MDT

Citizens rally in the rotunda of the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City to ask Governor Herbert to veto HB363, Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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OGDEN — Thousands of Utah high school students may have to re-think their plans to take a concurrent enrollment course next year, if a controversial sex-ed bill, HB363, is signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, education officials say.

Some concurrent enrollment courses, that give students both college and high school credit, deal with topics such as contraception that would be prohibited from discussion in public schools under the legislation that lawmakers passed.

Around 1,100 high school students are now enrolled in concurrent courses at Weber State University, such as family relations and human development that may not be offered next year, said Beth Rhoades, WSU's concurrent enrollment administrator.

Rhoades said HB363 has not been on higher education officials' radar, since it was seen as a bill that would only affect public education. Concurrent enrollment classes are college-credit courses that can be taken in high school.

"As I did my checking, I thought, 'Yes, this could likely affect some of our courses," Rhoades said.

She contacted several school district officials, who agreed that should it become law, the bill could prevent high schools from offering some college level courses that deal with human reproduction and sexuality, Rhoades added.

The course curriculae could not be altered to accommodate HB363's provisions, since the classes taught in high schools must exactly match what is taught in college, she said.

WSU officials are still in the assessment stage of deciding if the bill would affect concurrent courses offered there, and if so, which ones, said Brad Mortensen, cice president for University Advancement at Weber State.

"Honestly, we're still in these discussions," Mortensen said. "We haven't closed any courses yet. There could be, and that's why we've brought the issue up."

Rhoades added: "They most likely will be affected."

With WSU's concurrent enrollment registration coming up in April, officials will have to make a decision soon, Mortensen said. Herbert has until March 28 to sign or veto HB363. Opponents of the measure have flooded the governor's office with emails, phone calls and an on-line petition asking him to veto the bill, which passed on a party-line vote in the GOP-dominated Legislature.

Another WSU course that could be affected is anatomy and physiology, which is a prerequisite for admission to the nursing school, Mortensen said. That would mean candidates would have to spend additional time and money to take that course in college, he said.

Sharen Kamp, the career and technical education coordinator for the Weber School District, which includes three high schools, said around 380 district students are currently taking the concurrent family relations or human development courses.

"I would hope that it wouldn't happen because our students have actively participated in these courses," Kamp said. "Any concurrent enrollment class that the students have an opportunity to take is a good thing. This is really important for these students."

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, who opposes HB363, said, "I think that's tragic and shortsighted.

"This is exactly the type of 'unintended consequences' Democrats warned about. Not only will HB363 strip parents of the right to choose for themselves how they want their kids taught sex ed, but now we're seeing that high school students are going to be denied the opportunity to take college courses."

Several proponents of HB363 could not be reached for comment.

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com

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