SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah legislator is developing a proposal to move sex education out of the classroom and onto home computers via the internet.
Rep. Justin Fawson, a conservative Republican from North Ogden, says he’s drafting a bill that would tailor the state’s sex education curriculum to individual students.
Fawson told The Salt Lake Tribune that it would allow parents to pick from a suite of optional, web-based lessons “a la carte” as an alternative to classroom instruction. He says it would be a way to provide the education to children who opt out of the lessons during school health classes.
Fawson said he has no intention of loosening Utah’s content restrictions, including a prohibition on teaching the “intricacies of intercourse.” And while it would not be required by his measure, he said he’d like to see school districts fully embrace online lessons in lieu of traditional classroom instruction on reproduction and human sexuality.
“I’m hoping that most (school districts) will opt to just offer the curriculum online, that it wouldn’t be in a classroom setting,” Fawson said. “If it’s in a classroom setting, you’d still have to excuse the kids who hadn’t opted in.”
Debates over Utah’s approach to sex education in recent years have focused on the competing values of the state’s abstinence-based status quo as opposed to comprehensive lesson plans, which traditionally take a morality-neutral approach to human sexuality and offer greater detail on contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections, consent and sexuality.
State legislators updated the law last year to remove a prohibition on “advocacy of homosexuality” in response to a legal challenge.
Fawson said the threat of future litigation also is a motivator for his bill. The law should be updated with a focus on human reproduction, he said, and less emphasis on the cultural minefield of sexuality. He said he’s seeking input from school administrators and a variety of groups including Pro-Life Utah, Planned Parenthood of Utah, the Utah Eagle Forum, Equality Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said students should be taught “to their heart” as much as they are to their brain. Ruzicka said she welcomed a move to online lessons but withheld full support for Fawson’s bill until she see’s a final version.
“We have good laws that have been in place for many, many years,” she said. “We need to make sure we don’t go too far and put in the schools things that are not appropriate.”
Marina Lowe, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Utah, said students need access to comprehensive and medically accurate information on human sexuality.
“Oftentimes, that information doesn’t and can’t, for whatever reason, come from a home setting,” Lowe said. “We do need to make sure our young people are equipped with the information they need so that they can make the right choices in their lives.”
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com