A Utah Board of Education meeting saw protests against updated guidelines that allow teachers to answer student questions about sex and sex education.
A Thursday meeting of the Utah Board of Education was packed with members of conservative groups who protested a state law that allowed teachers to answer "spontaneous questions" about sex, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. The demonstration was organized by the Utah Eagle Forum and Pro-Life Utah, and members of the two groups signed up for almost every slot during the public comment period. Around 30 protesters filled the room, spilling into walkways. The groups also sent emails to members of the state school board and carried signs that said, “While you were reading this a baby was aborted.” One woman who spoke up at the meeting called the allowance “inappropriate and potentially graphic,” The Tribune reports. Another said it opened the possibility for educators to get into “grossly irresponsible” material — and stray away from discussions on abstinence. Several speakers were concerned about what might be taught about abortion.
Parents, representatives of pro-life organization, pro-family and the Utah Eagle Forum are addressing the Utah State School Board on teacher guide for Utah's new health/sex education standards. One speaker calls it "inappropriate and graphic."— DNews Politics (@DNewsPolitics) September 5, 2019
State School Board staff members developed instructional guides this year that address specific topics such as sex education. The guide, “Health Education, Answering commonly asked questions about sex education,” explains that Utah law allows teachers to address spontaneous student questions so as to provide medically accurate data, or correct inaccurate or misleading information or comments made by students in class. The document also advises teachers that they are not required to respond to questions that they are uncomfortable with, and also reminds that the law prohibits teachers from "answering questions concerning sexual techniques, including intricacies of sexual stimulation or erotic behavior." The guide's list of commonly asked questions cover topics including diseases, menstruation, puberty, and sex. The questions, which have been listed along with recommended answers, include normal teenage doubts such as: How do you know if you have an STD or STI? Can you lose your virginity by using a tampon? What is a wet dream? How do you define having sex? Several people took particular issue with a question about abortion, according to KSL, calling the suggested answer "demeaning and medically inaccurate". Here is the question and its answer, presented without comment:
What is an abortion?
It is the spontaneous or medically induced removal of the contents of
the uterus during pregnancy.
Robert Woods, a concerned parent who has four sons in public school, said at the meeting, “If one child asks about oral sex or something explicit and the teacher answers it, it doesn’t mean the other 30 kids want to hear it. Why can’t the teacher just say ‘That’s outside our curriculum. Please ask your parents if you really want to know’?” He added, “It is disturbing as a parent to hear that these teachers are being encouraged to answer spontaneous questions about anal sex, oral sex, masturbation. Even though they say ‘Well, don’t get explicit,’ some of the suggested answers are very explicit." Gayle Ruzicka, president of Utah Eagle Forum, said it would be “inappropriate and embarrassing for all of us” for her to read from the guide. “Yet, our children have to sit through these unexpected and embarrassing questions,” she said. The guidelines say a teacher cannot answer a technique or how-to question, Ruzicka said, adding, “Yet in many cases, by simply defining the individual sexual practice, they are describing the technique.”
Not giving kids information about sex only leads to fear, shame, and an inability to make healthy sexual decisions. This article got my eyes rolling and anger bubbling tonight... https://t.co/7RBNrzFyKV— Shelby Astle (@astleshelby) September 6, 2019
According to the state code, teachers' answers to such questions must still abide by state law, which only permits an "abstinence-based" sex program, and this is reflected in the suggested answers in the guide document. The answers promote abstinence and celibacy as the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and STDs. While teachers are allowed to discuss the use of contraception, they are not allowed to advocate for it. According to KSL, Ruzicka went on to suggest that students who have questions should be encouraged to either ask their parents, or a school counselor or nurse (with parental permission), so as to not expose other children to their questions or to the teacher's answers.
The list consists of 52 questions divided into categories of diseases, puberty, menstruation and sex. The examples include: “What is a wet dream?” “What is oral and anal sex?” “Can girls get pregnant if they have sex standing up?” - https://t.co/mzDJKQOgxx— Rebecca Green (@wordofgreen) September 5, 2019
The school board accepted the public comment without responding and the guide was not on its agenda for action, KSL reports. Under Utah law, students may not participate in human sexuality education without parental permission, and parents have the option to opt their children out of any section of the curriculum.