SALT LAKE CITY -- The Senate Education Committee has given its approval to a bill that would require the state to create an online course for parents who want to teach their children about sex.
On Monday the committee voted to send a bill to the full body of the Senate that calls on the State Office of Education to create an online program to give parents the tools needed to teach sex education to their children, should they choose to not enroll their kids in a school's course.
"I think we need to send a message as policymakers that parents are the first that need to take responsibility, not just in sex education but in all education," said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, the chief sponsor of the legislation.
Reid explained that his proposal came after last year's conversation on a controversial bill that looked to narrow the already restrained sex education curriculum allowed in Utah. Reid said as he heard the discussions on the subject he felt that the parents needed to take a more active role with their children when it came to sex ed.
Reid was joined by multiple students from Timpview High School who spoke during his presentation to the committee. The students spoke in favor of his legislation, saying the bill will allow parents to have a deeper understanding of what is actually taught in the classroom. They also argued that the knowledge parents gain from the online information will allow them to teach their children the morals and principles to which the family adheres.
"This allows for students to be mindful of these values whenever they might be put in situations that might compromise their values," Timpview student Parker Christensen said.
The committee praised the bill for its attempt to empower parents in the sex education process but the legislation did hit a speed bump when state Superintendent Martell Menlove spoke on the bill. Menlove is concerned that the program would be accessible to everyone and that some of the content contained within it might not be suitable for an all-ages audience. He asked that the committee consider a security provision to restrict access.
Menlove also said that having the state school board create a website that aims to teach parents about sex education would be overriding the local school boards that create the content for the in-school course for each district. He worried the local boards might try to align themselves with the state-created content instead of following what each community chooses.
Reid called Menlove's statements bewildering as he said he has been working with the superintendent's office since the summer to create a bill the state school board can support. Reid went on to say that the bill wasn't perfect but asked the committee to move it forward in the Legislature.
Menlove's statements forced some committee members to rethink their support to move the bill forward to the full Senate. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, both wanted the hold the bill in committee to address some of Menlove's concerns. Their votes weren't enough to hold the bill back, and it passed on a vote of 4-2.