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SALT LAKE CITY — A controversial bill that mandates an abstinence-only sex education curriculum for Utah public schools passed the Utah Senate with little debate Tuesday. But it's generated a lot of debate and disbelief among many Utah parents, and the teens whom the bill affects.
"Kids in high school are having sex," said Mariah Johnson, a high school sophomore.
KSL News caught up with Johnson Wednesday afternoon while she was shopping at Gateway with a friend and her mother. They all thought teaching abstinence was merely a good start on sex education in school.
"We want to have our own freedom," Johnson said. "So if you just teach about abstinence, then kids won't know how to have safe sex."
HB363 defines sex education in Utah as abstinence-only and bans instruction in sexual intercourse, homosexuality, contraceptive methods and sexual activity outside of marriage.
Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, sponsored the bill in response to what he viewed as inappropriate material being presented in classrooms, specifically materials produced by Planned Parenthood. Throughout the course of the legislative session he said that sex education should take place in the home and was pleased to see the bill pass in the Senate.
But the teenagers we talked with say they're more likely to ask their friends questions about sex than their parents, so they want to learn the facts.
"We need to be knowing these things before we are getting into it," said Kevin Harmon, a high school senior. "A lot of people are starting to do it, and not with the knowledge they need to have."
That's also why sophomore Abbey Mann thinks agrees students should learn more than abstinence. "I think it's important to learn the consequences of it," she said.
Her mother agrees.
"When it comes to sex education, there's so much more education rather than just abstinence," Jennifer Jackson said.
KSL TV's Facebook page totaled more than 120 comments in one hour on the topic.
Stephanie Robertson wrote: "Ridiculous! Teens will still have sex. Even those from religious upbringings. Why not teach them how to be safe from stds and pregnancy!" This, from Dan Graham: "As an active LDS father of 4, this bill is ridiculous. Yes abstinence is the best method, but to ignore all others is doing a great disservice to Utah kids."
But Ryan Jones disagreed: "Wow! I never received formal sex ed and I abstained."
And this, from Charles Thomas: "To pretend something is inevitable is foolish and weak minded. I agree with the solution, kids have the ability and strength to wait."
The Governor's Office says they have not received the final draft of this bill yet, so the governor isn't ready to comment yet on whether he'll sign the bill.
Meanwhile, the 2012 Legislative Session ends Thursday night.