Mountain West States Are Taking Different Paths On Sex Ed

Several Mountain West states are considering legislation that would change sex education in their schools and they are all taking very different approaches.

Colorado wants to make consent part of its sex ed curriculum. It also wants to ban abstinence-only programs and focus on comprehensive sex education.

Elizabeth Nash, with the reproductive health research organization the Guttmacher Institute, said that can have positive public health outcomes.

“When comprehensive sex education is provided,” Nash said, “we know that it can reduce the number of sexual partners that young people have. It can delay the onset of sexual activity. And it can increase contraceptive use.”

Utah schools follow an abstinence based model but pending legislation there would clarify how teachers can talk to their students about contraception. Many conservative politicians in the state are against the move, but Nash sees this as a step in the right direction.

Utah's bill, Nash said, "could be seen as a bridge between abstinence only and a more comprehensive approach.

In Idaho, the legislature is considering a bill that Nash said would decrease student participation in sex ed. It would require parents have their children opt-in to sex ed classes rather than opt-out, which is the current widespread practice.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.