Utah’s sexual eduation curriculum is failing its students

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This archived article was written by: Paige Martinez

The sex education system in Utah could use some work. Utah has what is known as an abstinence-based sexual instruction system. This means that while instructors can teach contraception and sexually transmitted disease prevention, they must focus on a strong abstinence message.
This is not the same across the state. Four counties, Canyons, Jordan, Nebo and Provo, are abstinence-only. Their students are not taught the bare minimum of safe sex.
Utah also is one of three states to practice an opt-in law. Without a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian, a student will go through their schooling without fundamental sex education.
The reasoning behind this is the belief that it’s a student’s guardian to teach them the important lessons to interact or not with others in an intimate way. This is a flawed idea. We do not rely on the parents to teach important life skills such as reading and math. In Utah, we even teach students how to write checks, but our educators are discouraged from teaching us concepts that can have negative effects on everyone.
And these negative effects are strongly felt in Utah. One in three women in Utah will experience sexual assault in one form or other. One in three! Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that is higher than the national average, according to Utah’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program.
In 2013, 895 rapes were reported to police agencies. That’s not even taking into consideration those that were not reported. The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice estimated that the majority, as much as 88.2 percent, of rapes were not brought to an authority.
Many of rape victims that were surveyed pointed to fear of someone finding out as a reason for not coming forward sooner. That fear is created by a culture where things of a sexual nature are left unlearned and undiscussed.
Consent is not in the lesson plan for sexual education in Utah. This is done under the idea that if you teach students consent, you are telling them that is is appropriate to have intercourse. However, what it is really doing, is denying people the tools to properly understand how to engage in intimacy, what is acceptable and what is considered sexual assault and rape.
The curriculum includes topics as “strategies to prevent sexual harassment,” “respect for self and others” and “refusal skills including establishment of personal boundaries and assertive behaviors.” These are not bad concepts to learn and should be continued.
However, they put the focus on students avoiding being done wrong to as opposed to teaching not to sexually assault others. You do not teach children how not to be pushed. You teach children that pushing is wrong.
In every other area of our lives, we are given as much information as possible to make informed decisions. Why is this area left out? Researchers from Advocates for Youth studying the National Survey of Family Growth found that students who were taught a comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to have a pregnancy than those with a abstinence-only education.
At the end of the day, people will decide to have sex. Our education system should be making sure that they have all the information before making that decision.