SALT LAKE CITY — A North Ogden lawmaker has been meeting with diverse stakeholders as he contemplates legislation on sex education instruction in public schools that would shift the focus from human sexuality to reproductive health.
Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, is also considering making available to parents a series of web-based modules on topics such a contraception, healthy relationships and substance abuse that they could share with their children as they wish.
In a meeting with a State School Board committee on Friday, Fawson said he is working on legislation that "makes that section of code fairly sterile in that it only addresses human reproduction. I think what you would see in the final draft is that it takes the human sexuality piece out of the code and the state doesn't address that."
Fawson said he is willing to share draft legislation with members of the Utah State Board of Education once it is completed.
The lawmaker said he is trying to "find a happy medium" for parents who take responsibility for teaching their children about human sexuality at home, as he and his wife do, and parents who do not and as a consequence, students have no reliable information.
In those circumstances, web-based modules could be helpful, he said.
"We have kids who think Dr. Pepper is a contraceptive. I’m not kidding. The things I've heard of are just mind-blowing," Fawson said. "We should be talking to our kids about that, but I understand that there's a lot of parents who just won't. I'd like to stick to the statistics and science of contraception, that's it."
In any event, parents would have to opt-in their child to any sex education course, whether it was taught at school or through a web-based program, he said.
Fawson said he would also like to amend state code on human sexuality instruction so it is less of a target in terms of litigation.
He said he recently met with stakeholders that included representatives of the ACLU of Utah, the Utah Eagle Forum, Planned Parenthood, Pro Life Utah, Equality Utah and government officials to discuss their perspectives about instruction of human sexuality in Utah public schools.
Given his choice, Fawson, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, said, "I’d like to write the code according to the strictest morals of our state. I would love that. I would love nothing more than that. But we will not win. We will not win that battle in court."
State School Board member Spencer Stokes complimented Fawson for his "wise approach" of focusing instruction on human reproduction as opposed to human sexuality.
“I think this is an argument of our time, which is we have to be very diligent how we're crafting legislation so the courts don’t end up crafting the legislation for us," Stokes said.
Last year, Equality Utah brought a lawsuit against the state of Utah over a sex education law that banned positive discussions of homosexuality in public schools.
The parties eventually settled after state lawmakers passed SB196, which removed language prohibiting the discussion of homosexuality from state laws.
SB196, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, stresses “the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage.”