Teens encourage lawmakers to change sex-ed policy

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah lawmakers may consider changes to the current abstinence-only sex education policy in public schools. Wednesday lawmakers found out there is increasing pressure to make a change, from teens themselves.

A lot of lawmakers are reluctant to change the state's sex education policy, but some young adults in public schools are, themselves, demanding changes because they're seeing the consequences.

Emma Waitzman, a West High School senior, said, "I know many, I know kids that have had to switch schools because of unwanted teen pregnancy. I mean kids aren't getting tested, we had one girl who got gonorrhea of the mouth. I mean, I don't know why we're not getting this information."

Waitzman feels so strongly about comprehensive sex-ed in Utah public schools that she started an online Facebook fan site. Titled "Comprehensive Sex Ed in Utah," the site has 115 members, mostly fellow West High School students.

Anna Vickrey, another West High School senior, said, "The government has a responsibility to give us those rights, and to give us that sort of protection. And they're not fulfilling that by giving us a one-sided conversation."

And senior Phyllis Freed said, "With my own experience, in my health classes, you would be shocked how many people just don't know things you would think would be common knowledge."

A legislative interim committee is considering a new version of a bill that died earlier this year. It would allow schools to teach about preventing pregnancy and about preventing sexually-transmitted disease, but only with parental permission.

Rep, Lynn Hemingway, (D) Salt Lake City, said, "This isn't a moral issue anymore; this is a health issue. And that's why this bill is before the Health and Human Services Committee."

Lawmakers want to hear hard facts before they sign on to anything but the current abstinence-only education.

The young people, crowded in a standing-room-only space, were certainly willing to speak out.

Senior Brendan Botoson said, "I have received information from my parents. I do practice abstinence only, but there are kids out there that don't. And I believe a contraceptive program would help a lot of people and improve their standard of living."

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com


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