SALT LAKE CITY — While one lawmaker's sex education bill garnered no favor, its twin lives on and there may be another in the making.
SB54, meant to clarify contraceptive education and sponsored by Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, didn't get voted on in the Senate Education Committee Monday. However, an almost identical bill by Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake, is still out there.
And Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, was going to pitch a substitute bill Monday but didn't get the chance. He later said he might run with it himself. "I'll let the dust settle and see what to do," he said.
Stephenson's idea is to make the sex education curriculum available online. That way parents could pick and choose what to teach and make the education more private and age appropriate for their child's maturity level. "This is ideal for individualized instruction," he said.
Urquhart's bill tried to clarify language in the current statute, including emphasizing parents are the primary educators of their children on the subject requiring information be age appropriate and medically accurate, and clarifying contraceptive education.
SB54 also advised the Utah State Office of Education to produce an informational PowerPoint or video presentation to make instruction more uniform across the state.
Currently, teachers may talk about contraception options with prior parental consent. However, some people say the education is lacking.
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 they err on the side of caution by eliminating important information.
Monday, after no one on the Senate Education Committee would make a motion to hear a substitute version of SB54, Urquhart told the committee he didn't feel comfortable with the original bill.
"The substitute is a product of a lot of give and take, a lot of negotiation," Urquhart said. "It represents the best product."
The state PTA spent hours working with Urquhart on SB54.
"This bill was accurate and not too liberal. It empowered parents. I don't think these other groups truly understood the bill," said Liz Zentner, Utah PTA health commissioner.
After sitting in silence for several minutes during which no committee member would make a motion to hear Urquhart's bill, committee chairman Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, made a motion to adjourn, effectively putting the legislation on ice.
After the meeting, Bramble said he spent 20 hours over the weekend studying the issue, including the state core curriculum, information from national organizations, what different states do and 15 studies on the subject.
Committee members received numerous phone calls and e-mails over the weekend in opposition to the legislation.
"We were very busy all weekend. And we have good legislators who respond positively to the input from their constituents," said Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum.
Melissa Bird, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, said she was disappointed the public didn't get a chance to voice its opinion Monday. The room was packed with people wanting to speak for and against Urquhart's proposal. "It's a shame," Bird said.
Go to le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/hbillint/hb0127.htm to view HB127.
Go to le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/sbillint/sb0054.htm to view SB54.
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