Avoiding cell phone misconduct and Internet predators is among new modern elements being added to the state's health curriculum.
"These things really threaten the safety of children in our society today," said Frank Wojtech, state health and physical education specialist.
Wojtech is in charge of the revision of the Secondary Health Education Core Curriculum. It is taught to junior high and high school students and hasn't been overhauled for 10 years.
Friday, the State Board of Education unanimously approved publicly presenting a revised version of the health curriculum, which includes lifestyle issues as well as a sex education component. Public hearings for the proposed curriculum are being planned for Salt Lake, Provo, Ogden, Moab, Vernal and St. George, starting this month. Specific sites, dates and times will be announced.
The revised curriculum includes national health standards. It also contains a component on potentially damaging adolescent behaviors that include drugs, alcohol and tobacco, suicide, poor nutrition, obesity and risky sexual behavior.
Parents will be able to download segments of the curriculum for their own use.
The curriculum also lists 85 Web sites for educators and parents to access many topics, from cancer to stress.
There is an element that includes teaching the curriculum to English Language Learner students.
One state Parent Teacher Association representative told the board Friday she wants educators to consider teaching the health curriculum differently to students in state custody and young mothers programs, as well as to students of different ethnic backgrounds.
"We do need to discuss how to apply it to special populations. Our Latino population has birth rates four times higher," said Mary Ann Kirk. She was on the committee that helped revise the human sexuality component of the state's health curriculum in the 1990s to include AIDS.
Currently the sex education component of the health curriculum, which state education staff don't plan to change unless the Legislature mandates it, is abstinence-based, with contraceptive information taught only with parental permission.
The planned hearings coincidentally will overlap an educational campaign launched by the Utah Department of Health, including results of two surveys on sexually transmitted diseases, said Teresa Garrett, division director for epidemiology and laboratory services, Utah Department of Health.
"We're trying to do something different to make a difference," Garrett said, adding there were approximately 6,000 cases of STDs in Utah in 2008.
The state education department's proposed health curriculum document is to be posted online for comment beginning April 10. Go to: www.schools.utah.gov/curr/pe_health/core.htm
The board plans to vote on the final proposal in June.
State education staff has been working on the revisions for about two years. Three input committees included medical officials, health and physical education instructors, health department representatives and parents.
Staff reviewed the health curriculum of 24 other states.