Changes to the parental permission form for Utah's sexual education program were unanimously approved Friday by the State Board of Education.
The changes are meant to clarify issues to educators and parents alike regarding instruction on human sexuality. Some words have been added, along with shading, bolding and larger type for emphasis.
The form, offered in seven languages, states public schools will teach abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage; require prior parental consent before teaching any aspect of contraception and/or condoms; and deliver information about communicable diseases, including those transmitted sexually, such as HIV and AIDS. This is according to Utah state law and Utah State Board of Education rule.
According to the form, teachers may respond to spontaneous student questions for "the purposes of providing accurate data or correcting inaccurate or misleading information."
"Our teachers are not sex therapists. They are teachers who are trying to give an objective picture of human sexuality for our students," said Frank Wojtech, state health and physical education specialist.
Some teachers have the students write down questions and hand them in so there are no surprises, he added.
Program materials and guest speakers are reviewed and approved by the local district's human sexuality review committee.
The form states what is not approved by the state board and can't be taught: intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation or erotic behavior; advocacy of homosexuality; advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices; and advocacy for sexual activity outside of marriage.
The form states "demonstrations on how to use condoms or any contraceptive means, methods, or devices are prohibited and are not authorized."
Wojtech said, "We don't do that in the state of Utah."
The form allows parents to choose whether their child will receive all information, including reproductive anatomy and health; human reproduction; self exams; contraception; and sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, HIV and AIDS. Newly added is that "modes of transmission" will be discussed or described. Other added words include: "terms of sensitive/explicit nature may be defined."
Wojtech says parents in Cache School District during the past year raised some concerns that initiated the changes in the forms.
State board member Teresa Theurer, Logan, said the concerned parents contacted her as a state board representative.
Regarding the freshly added words, Wojtech said, "For many parents, these may be trigger phrases or trigger terms. It may cause them to call the teacher and say, 'What specifically will you be teaching my child?' And that's what we really want."
Another added item on the choices segment of the form is cautionary information on date rape.
"Many schools now are bringing in outside agencies to talk to our students about the dangers of date rape," Wojtech said.
A second sex ed option on the form allows parents to exclude their child from segments of the program with alternate assignments. A third option states the parent will contact the school to discuss and review the materials before making a decision. A fourth option allows the parent to exempt their child from all participation in the program.
Theurer said she has spoken with teachers who say generally 95 percent of the parents opt for their child to receive all the human sexuality instruction.
"We don't have very many kids at all who are opting out," Theurer said.
She added she believes the parental involvement aspect in the program is extremely important.
In conjunction with approving changes in the parental permission form, the state board also approved changes to the annual state-required Utah Law and Policy forms. Each district must complete and return this form to the State Office regarding human sexuality instruction. The changes are general clarifications.
This form lists the makeup of the district's human sexuality committee, which reviews materials and approves guest speakers. Many times the speaker will give the presentation to the committee, which then approves, disapproves or revises the material.
The form indicates whether new human-sexuality teachers have received training from the State Office of Education and if veteran instructors have received at least one district-sponsored update training in the last three years.
The form also includes details on the materials used in the program.
This is only the second year the district form has been in use. "There may be much additional tweaking in future years," Wojtech said.
He lauded Granite School District for being especially organized in openly sharing its program's information, including names of textbooks, brochures, guest speakers and members of its human sexuality committee.
Granite will be used as a model for other districts in the future, he said, distributing copies of Granite's five-page document to the committee.
Curtis Hale, health and physical education specialist for Granite district, said, "There's a real need to help kids to get pertinent information so they can make good value decisions about themselves."
Some of Granite district's guest speakers include a pediatrician, a certified nurse midwife and nurses.Members of the district's review committee include representatives of Pregnancy Resource Center of Salt Lake; Utah AIDS Foundation; American Red Cross; Planned Parenthood; Rape Recovery Center; and Utah Department of Health.