HB 363 stipulated that schools only be allowed to teach an abstinence-only curriculum to prevent communicable diseases and that teachers be prohibited from talking about contraceptives to students. HB 363 also stated that schools would be able to opt out of any discussion of sexual education completely.
Many parents have been outspoken in opposition to this bill. Current law requires parents to opt-in their children to sexual education curriculum by providing signed permission forms stating the level of education approved by the parent.
As it stands 97% of parents opt their children in the current sexual education curriculum leaving 3% who oppose it.
A study conducted recently by Brigham Young University reported that 58% of Utah voters agree that contraceptives should be taught in the school, while 29% disagree. HB363 would have done away with the current system and banned teaching contraceptives altogether.
On Friday, Governor Gary Herbert vetoed House Bill 363. The bill would have restricted what schools could teach children in terms of sexual education.
It would have allowed districts to choose to remove it entirely from the curriculum and limiting parental choice. Parents and groups had expressed concern over the bill since its recent passing in the Utah legislature.
The bill drew sharp criticism from parents and educators, which sparked a social media campaign uniting people together across party lines to speak out against the bill.
“I think the combination of letters, emails, phone calls and the rally all made a difference,” said Michelle Maraffio, a Park City mother of two. “I wrote a letter, signed the petition, sent an email and called. I really like how (Governor Herbert) said that the current sex ed program allows parental choice and that he didn’t want to take away our choice. I also sent him a thank-you email when he vetoed it.”
Educators and parents rally
Hundreds of educators, parents, teens and children were all in attendance at the rally held at the state capitol on March 13 in opposition of the bill.
“I have never been to a rally like that before, but what made me feel I needed to attend was that I strongly believe that our kids deserve all the facts so that they can make informed decisions about their sexuality,” said Peter Pedersen, a father of three from Draper. “To tell them only part of the story is negligent and cruel when an STD or an unwanted pregnancy can change their lives forever.”
According to SignOn.org, more than 40,000 people signed an online petition to encourage Governor Herbert to veto the bill.
Proponents of the bill reject the petition on grounds that anyone can sign it multiple times, be they from Utah or not. Those who began the petition manually edited the names, throwing out entries of those outside of Utah, and those with obviously false names.
The remaining total was about 32,000 names.
“Individually and uniquely crafted”
Governor Herbert said that he would not be swayed by public opinion but by policy. Though in a recent interview with KUER’s Dan Bammes, the governor’s spokesperson, Allyson Isom said that the governor has received many “individually and uniquely crafted” letters and e-mails by parents and educators asking the governor to veto the bill.
“Any attempt by the State to instruct in this area must respect two principles,” posted Herbert on his website after it was announced he had vetoed the bill. “(1) The curriculum must stress the importance of abstinence as the only sure method to avoid the negative effects of premarital sexual activity; and (2) The State must not interfere with a parent’s right and obligation to determine if and how their children will be instructed.”
“After careful review of existing law and following extensive discussions with stakeholders on both sides of the issue, I am convinced the existing statutory framework respects these two principles, while HB 363 simply goes too far by constricting parental options.”
Getting involved in the political process
In a Pizza and Politics event held recently at Salt Lake Community College, Tim Sheehan, SLCC vice president of institutional advancement, spoke to the audience about participating in the political process by contacting legislators.
“The best thing you can do is make it personal,” Sheehan said. “Send in your own story. Tell your own story. Don’t rely on just ‘Hey I’ll be on a mailing list with 800 other people’, because often times legislators and officials will just ignore that.”
“I just vetoed #HB363. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice,” —Tweet from Governor Herbert.
The veto of HB 363 is a good example of people sharing their stories, writing the governor and getting involved in the political process. Parents were passionate about this bill and shared that with the governor their concerns in personal writing rather than form letters.
“Using social media to talk about the issues and encourage legislators is becoming a trend,” Sheehan said. “There are lots of forums out there through social media in which you can share your views with legislators and have common discussions with others that might share your views.”
Social media seemed to be a big factor in getting the word out about this bill, encouraging people to attend the rally and in writing the governor. It was even through social media that the governor announced that he had vetoed the bill.
“I just vetoed #HB363. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice,” tweeted Governor Herbert.