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Recent Legislation in Iowa and Washington Advances Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; Utah Legislation Restricts Them

Recent legislation in states across the country will have significant impact on sexuality education. In both Iowa and Washington, the state governments have moved to further comprehensive sexuality education, ensuring that young people have access to complete, medically accurate information. Utah, however, has restricted the ability of young LGBTQ people to hold club meetings in a safe school environment.

Iowa already requires a health curriculum that includes information on sexually transmitted diseases and human growth and development.  On April 20, Governor Chet Culver signed a bill (House File 611) into law mandating that this curricula use up-to-date, age-appropriate, research-based materials.1  The law defines “research-based,” explaining that it means that information provided is complete, verified by the research conducted in the scientific methods, acknowledged to be medically accurate, and free of racial, ethnic, sexual orientation and gender biases.2 Inaccuracies in health curricula used in Iowa district schools in the past have included statements such as: “ninety-nine percent of all high school girls who have sex become pregnant,” and “half of gay male teens have tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”3

The new law also requires that health curricula include information about human papilloma virus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine. The law, which will go into effect on July 1, 2007, amends the health curricula of both public and non-public schools.

This law does not preclude schools from having abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for students, nor does it mandate that schools must address certain topics during sexuality education classes, such as abortion, contraception, or homosexuality.4 In fact, it continues to allow local schools to ultimately decide which materials are used as long as those materials fall within the parameters of the new requirements.5

Washington has also moved to advance sexuality education. The Healthy Youth Act (House Bill 1855/ Senate Bill 5297) passed in the House on April 11 and in the Senate on March 7. It was signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire on May 2.6 The act requires that when school districts choose to offer sexuality education, they teach medically accurate and comprehensive sexuality education.  The Healthy Youth Act still allows individual school districts to decide whether to teach sexuality education and to select which curricula are used for the classes, as long as those materials meet the new requirements.  

Conversely, Utah has restricted sexual and reproductive health and rights as Governor Jon Huntsman signed a bill (House Bill 236) into law on March 10 that allows schools to ban Gay-Straight Alliance clubs (GSAs) if they do not “maintain the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior.”7 The law requires parental consent for students to join school clubs and allows administrators to deny the formation of clubs for several reasons, including to “protect the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior.”8 Though the law applies to all clubs, GSAs were the intended target because, as Senator Chris Buttars (R- West Jordan) stated, they are believed to “indoctrinate” students into a “gay lifestyle.”9 Many groups in Utah opposed the bill, including the state Board of Education, which explained that it was unnecessary because student clubs must already follow regulations set by the state and district.

References


  1.  “School sex-ed must be research based,” The Des Moines Register, 21 April 2007, accessed 23 April 2007, <http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007704210347>.
  2. Jonathan Roos, “Bill calling for research-based sex education OK’d,” The Des Moines Register, 11 April 2007, accessed 23 April  2007, <http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070411/NEWS10/704110373/1011>.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “School sex-ed must be research based,” The Des Moines Register, 21 April 2007, accessed 23 April 2007, <http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007704210347>.
  5. Roos, “Bill calling for research-based sex education.”
  6. “Major Victory Won for Teen Safety: House Passes Healthy Youth Act,” Press Release, Healthy Youth Alliance, published 11 April 2007, accessed 23 April 2007, <http://www.healthyyouthalliance.org/>.
  7. “Huntsman Signs Bill that Could Allow Schools to Ban Gay-Straight Alliance,” KLS Newsradio, 10 March 2007, accessed 23 April 2007, <http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=973111>.
  8. Julia Lyon and Michael Westley, “Students say clubs a haven from hurt,” The Salt Lake Tribute, 2 April 2007, accessed 26 April 2007, <http://www.sltrib.com/search/ci_5574375>.
    “2007 Legislative Summary,” Equality Utah, (28 February 2007), accessed 26 April 2007, <http://www.equalityutah.org/2007%20Legislative%20Summary.pdf>.
  9. “Huntsman Signs Bill.”

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