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Consent bill may come back in Utah legislative session

The Utah State Capitol. (Derek Petersen/KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates hope a bill before the Utah legislature that would update the way schools in the state teach consent stays alive. 

Bill requires consent education in Utah at younger ages 

HB 177 would require curriculum for teaching younger students about consent in sex education curriculum. Utah core standards already include curriculum along these lines for high schoolers (found here on page 48).

The House Education Committee has put a hold on it for now, to the disappointment of some advocates.

“I think there has historically been a lot of fear for legislators to be perceived in any way as growing sex education in schools,” said Andrea Himoff with Action Utah.

She spoke on “A Woman’s View” with Amanda Dickson.

Opposition to the bill

HB 177 defines consent as “freely given, informed, and knowledgeable agreement to do something or for something to happen.”

But some opponents to the bill worried about the younger age range, and whether parents could opt-in to the curriculum.

Others pointed out in the committee meeting that Utah’s criminal code outlines that a child cannot legally offer consent. That means an adult abuser cannot argue that a child or young teenager didn’t say no.

Sponsor: Consent education needed

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carol Spackman-Moss, D-Salt Lake City, says she is revising the bill and will try again. She told the committee that her daughters were victimized as children, and she wished they had the tools and language to be able to talk to her about it.

She says the curriculum would make it clear that this is not about victim shaming or blaming.

“People say, ‘Why don’t kids come forward, why don’t more people talk about it?’ It’s because there’s still so much victim-blaming,” said Holly Willard, LCSW at Grandview Family Counseling.

She also spoke on “A Woman’s View,” and said she will reach out to lawmakers to see if she can work on the bill, too.

“This is something that is definitely needed,” said Willard. “Especially when you read through the bill itself, it says all children need to know that no one has a right to hurt them.”

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