In the legislative town hall on March 2, Rep. Lance Clow of Twin Falls, chairman of the House Education Committee, said about the high school students who lobbied against the rightfully controversial bill requiring parents to opt-in to sexual health education: “They were clear: we want sexual education. Well, they want to get into R-17 movies too, but they’re not allowed to do that.”
Clow's wife is a retired educator, and Clow himself spent a semester in 2015 substituting in Magic Valley classrooms. Still, he didn't get enough experience if he thinks this is an apt comparison. Teen sexual health education is not the stuff of NC-17 or even R-rated films. A robust, developmentally appropriate curriculum covers such topics as healthy relationships, anatomy, sexually transmitted infections, consent, intimate partner violence, pregnancy and, yes, protection and contraception. Middle school content includes puberty, anatomy and hygiene. This information is essential for our students as they leave school and enter adulthood.
Rep. Linda Wright Hartgen, also of Twin Falls, mused at a need for common sense approaches to reducing abortions in the state. A good start would be making sexual health education more accessible, rather than erecting roadblocks to students' education. When our students are empowered with information, when they know enough to be able to say "No," "Not yet," or "Yes, but only if …," we all benefit from a healthier valley and a healthier state.
Teaching our students about sexual health doesn't inspire them to have sex. It empowers them to make healthier informed choices. It even reduces the number of unintended teenage pregnancies — something I am sure both representatives would be happy to see.