House Bill 177 would have required Utah schools' curriculum to teach students about consent. Maddie Corder says we should stand up against the decision to reject the bill. Graphic by Emily Wight.
Utah has struggled with sexual violence for years, and lack of knowledge is a considerable reason why. The state is placing minors in harm’s way by not passing House Bill 177, which would have changed the current curriculum to teach consent and prevent unwanted sexual behavior.
According to FBI Statistics: “Utahns are victims of rape at rates far above the national average, with 49.4 cases per 100,000 residents than the national rate of 36.6. Simple sex education in middle and high school could educate children on what sexual assault entails.”
The bill could potentially lower the sexual assault rates in Utah by a significant amount. If students are educated on what consent means and are given tools to understand assault, they will be less likely to do it.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, “HB177 would require the state Board of Education to develop curriculum for teaching students about consent, including what does not constitute consent; the tools people can use to get help for the physical and psychological effects of sexual assault, and to help them understand that ‘no one has the right to touch an individual in a sexual manner if that individual does not want to be touched.'”
Utah is failing its minors by not properly educating them. Parents try to avoid “the talk” because it has a stigma of being awkward or too inappropriate. Sex education is viable in a classroom setting because it limits parental bias and communicates a general idea.
If you are uncomfortable as a parent teaching your child about STDs and contraceptives, pass it on to qualified teachers who are there to teach your child in an age appropriate way about sex.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said in a Salt Lake Tribune article that her daughters were victimized as children.
“I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t provide them with the tools and the language to be able to come directly and say, ‘This is happening to me, and I don’t want it to happen,’” Moss said.
Utah’s current laws give parents the ability to opt their children into a sex education class, but even then, the existing courses are not full of useful information. Utah sex education weighs heavily on teaching abstinence and lacks STD, pregnancy and contraception information.
According to The Guardian, “Utah law mandates that abstinence-based sexual education be promoted as the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in health classes across the state.”
Minors must be educated before they are sexually active on what boundaries are and ways to prevent pregnancy. They might go into a sexual relationship later in life, clueless, potentially dealing with the repercussions of little education.
Utah’s minors are going to grow up, get married and have sex eventually; it is important for Utah to pass a law for minors to learn more about sexual education rather than abstinence.
The Utah State Legislature should want to keep minors’ best interest in mind. Not passing House Bill 177 is limiting much-needed education.
If you believe that Utah schools should educate students on sex education, write a letter to your senator or start a petition. This bill is important, and parents should be aware of the repercussions of a child lacking knowledge about sexual assault, consent and contraceptives. Advocate for awareness because teaching abstinence does not always prevent sex, but education does.