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Politics & Government

Bill To Require Information About Preventing Sexual Assault In Health Class Fails In Utah House

Photo of Utah Capitol at night.
Brian Albers / KUER
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Utah lawmakers voted against allowing parents to opt their students into a health curriculum about preventing sexual assault.

The Utah House of Representatives voted down a bill Friday that would have required sexual education in schools to include information about preventing sexual violence.

The legislation would have directed the State Board of Education to develop the curriculum. It would have had to:

  • Help students understand “that no one has the right to touch an individual in a sexual manner if that individual does not want to be touched[.]”
  • Teach students about available resources if they are sexually assaulted.
  • Focus on developing students’ communication skills around their personal boundaries.

Parents would’ve had to sign off on their kids participating in the curriculum.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, sponsored the bill and said the information was critical to prevent sexual violence and help kids understand boundaries.

“This is the only time in high school and junior high that they may get this information,” Moss said. “I believe that schools give information and education and parents teach values.”

The bill originally required students to learn about “consent” but that language was removed from the final version of the bill the House voted on.

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, argued against it saying he was concerned about students learning about consent partially because it’s a legal term. But he also said it looks different depending on the situation.

“It can be verbal consent, but most often the consent is nonverbal,” Nelson said. “Participation is typically silent. And so what that leads to is exposing the participants to a claim of sexual assault a week later, a month later or a year later after the conduct has occurred because there was no supposedly no verbal consent.”

Moss clarified that teaching “consent” was no longer in the bill. More than anything, she said she cares about the health and safety of students.

“I think I fell short as a mother because I didn't give the information that I might have [if] I had more education myself,” she said. “But this is something that can open the door for conversations for parents that parents find very uncomfortable.”

The bill failed by a close margin — 31-39. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting for it.

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