Utah Board of Education Will Not Support Bill Mandating HIV/AIDS Education
The Utah State Board of Education on Friday decided not to support a bill (HB72), sponsored by state Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D), that would mandate HIV/AIDS education in public schools because of a "fear it would open a can of worms," the Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News reports (Toomer-Cook, Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News, 1/30). Currently, Utah's core health curriculum, which dictates uniform standards for public schools, includes prevention education on communicable diseases in all grade levels. The secondary curriculum touches on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention information. Although parents must give consent for their children to attend the secondary curriculum classes, few parents opt to have their children excluded from the classes, according to Frank Wojtech, a health and physical education specialist in the state's Office of Education. Education officials say that while most students are getting basic sex education, the lessons vary by school and community because HIV/AIDS education is inherently tied to human sexuality. The bill, which includes one line saying that schools must include HIV/AIDS education in health programs, plans to complement the efforts already in place, Moss said. However, education officials are unsure if the bill would be able to make HIV/AIDS education uniform and comprehensive throughout the state (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/20). According to the Utah Department of Health, about 14 new HIV cases are reported among 13- to 24-year-olds annually in the state.
Board Decision, Moss Reaction
The board said the bill is "unnecessary" because HIV/AIDS education already is in the core curriculum, and lessons begin as early as the fourth grade, State Associate Superintendent Christine Kearl said, according to the Morning News. "Though I'm supportive of the concept, ... and I don't want to deny what Rep. Moss wants to have done, I'm concerned that if this comes to the fore, (it's) going to open up the can of worms again," state board member Laurel Brown said. While Moss said she "understands" the board's "reluctance," she is "disappointed" in their decision not to support the bill, the Morning News reports. "(The bill) would give teachers the security of having the law behind them when they teach about sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS," Moss said, adding, "It's time that we addressed this area once again." (Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News, 1/30).