Utah Sex Education Reform
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Sexuality is an essential aspect of human life that can have an impact on health, emotional well-being, and a variety of other outcomes. Unfortunately, some of these impacts can become negative when an individual’s understanding of sexual risks is limited. The prevalence of these risks is especially true for adolescents. Adolescents are the most at-risk population when it comes to unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Research suggests that the rate of effectiveness of comprehensive programs in protecting adolescents from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases is higher than abstinence only programs.
Furthermore, it is important to consider the impacts that sexual education can have on vulnerable children in sexually abusive situations. If children have access to information about sexuality and how it works in healthy relationships, this could help vulnerable children connect to resources and escape a sexually abusive situation.
In addition to protection for sexual abuse, comprehensive sexual education can have a positive impact on future relationships. In Utah, the average age at first marriage is 24 for women and 26 for men. In contrast, the national average age for women is 27 and 29 for men. With this three-year difference from the national average, it is important to prepare Utah teens for healthy sexuality in marriage with frank education on sexuality. I believe this would be best achieved through a comprehensive sexual education program.
Currently, the state of Utah employs an abstinence-plus sexual education program which is a derivative of the abstinence only program. I believe that it would be beneficial for both parents and children in Utah if the state reformed their sexual education program and moved towards something more comprehensive. If the state implemented a comprehensive sexual education program, this would guarantee that all children would have access to important information about sexuality. Additionally, this would allow parents the opportunity to expand upon the information presented to their children in class and could open up a dialogue about sexuality between parents and children.
This past year, Utah Representative Brian King introduced HB215 that outlined a comprehensive sex education program, but the bill was rejected by the House of Education Committee. As a result of this petition, I hope that another bill will be introduced that addresses this need in the state of Utah for the 2018 General Session.
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