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Utah sex ed bill gets mixed reaction at meeting

Utah sex ed bill gets mixed reaction at meeting



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Salt Lake City lawmaker is getting mixed feedback on a proposal to require schools to offer two tracks for sex education: one that encourages abstinence only and another that emphasizes abstinence but also includes discussions of sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives.

Rep. Lynn Hemingway, a Democrat, presented a draft of his bill this week during a public meeting at the Murray Library.

He said it's important that students -- with their parents' permission -- have the option of getting more than just information about abstinence.

"I want to be sure parents can be certain if they want abstinence-only education, their children can get that," Hemingway told the crowd at the meeting, which was hosted by the Planned Parenthood Action Council. "I also want to be certain that if parents want to get a little more detail in their children's education, they can do that."

Given Utah's rising number of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, the change to the law is "a health issue," Hemingway said.

Current rules allow educators to instruct about contraception options with prior parental consent.

Several at the meeting said any change is unnecessary. Others said sex education should primarily happen at home.

"I think the best kind of sex education happens with parents who teach moral values along with mechanics," said Maryann Christensen, a mother. "Everyone has a different set of moral values."

Hemingway agreed that parents ought to be involved, but said the current law for school districts doesn't go far enough. Teachers can talk about contraceptives but they're not allowed to encourage their use, leaving many to avoid the topic altogether, Hemingway said.

Some students and recent graduates said at the meeting they didn't learn about contraceptives in school.

"I feel if the option for contraceptive classes had been offered in high school, less of my friends would have become pregnant," said Celia Coughlin, who graduated from Woods Cross High School in 2004.

Additional meetings on the proposal are planned in Garland on Sept. 23 and West Valley City on Oct. 19.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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