Why Do Some Parents Opt Their Children Out of California Sex-Ed Programs?

Why Do Some Parents Opt Their Children Out of California Sex-Ed Programs?
Ninth graders work on projects in the classroom of Health Education teacher Leticia Jenkins at James Monroe High School in North Hills, California on May 18, 2018. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Ian Henderson
News Analysis
A California sex education law aimed at K-12 public schools has repeatedly caused some parents and educators across the state to express concern about the material being taught to children in the curriculum.
Assembly Bill 329, also known as the California Healthy Youth Act, was written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2015, coming into effect in 2016. Its stated purpose is to teach “healthy attitudes” towards sexual orientation, gender, and relationships by promoting the “understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development.” It also aims to ward off HIV and other STDs.

The sex-ed law is mandatory for middle and high school, but optional for K-6. It allows parents to opt their children out of the sex ed and HIV prevention curriculum, but does not allow families to opt out of materials that discusses gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, according to ACLU and CTA’s interpretation of the law. The guidelines were updated earlier this year amidst protests.

Brenda Lebsack, an Orange Unified School District Trustee and a teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, told The Epoch Times that the content recommended in the program is fueling concern from teachers and parents alike.

“The framework recommends for Kindergarten through third grade that we teach Sex-Ed and HIV Prevention and that sexual reproductive organs don’t always match a person’s gender. It recommends we teach non-monogamous relationships as normal and inclusive in seventh grade,” she said.

Lebsack further explained that the framework recommends teaching that gender and sexual orientations are ever expanding and ever changing.

In an effort to provide non-English speaking parents access of the framework content, Lebsack requested a Spanish edition of the framework so non-English speakers could give input. However, she said the California Department of Education denied this request. She said there were no versions available in Korean, Chinese, or Vietnamese either.

“California has a very large immigrant minority population and these parents care about their children’s education just as much as English speaking parents. Their voices should not be muted, especially when teaching children about unprecedented subjects that have never been in public classrooms concerning gender and sexuality,” Lebsack said.

The California Department of Education did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The law further prohibits abstinence-only education and any discussion of religious teachings towards sexuality. An ACLU handout on the law states that starting in seventh grade students are required to be taught “all FDA-approved methods preventing pregnancy and transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (including condoms, contraceptives, and antiretroviral treatment) and abstinence.”

Despite the fact that the framework for the new sex-ed policy is optional for K-6, many school districts are willingly adopting its policies and curriculum.

In a video provided to The Epoch Times of a ninth grade student who attends Godinez Fundamental High School in the Santa Ana Unified School District, the boy made a public statement at the district’s board meeting last month describing the content taught in his biology class.

His statement reads below:
“In my biology class at Godinez, we started ‘Sex Fridays’. The teachers sent home to my parents a permission slip, but only in English. She said the Spanish one had some [incorrect] grammar, so she did not want to send them. This upset me because I knew that most of the parents do not speak English. So, every Friday for three months, the teacher talked about sex. The teacher seems more energetic on Fridays. We were told that after the ‘Sex Fridays,’ Planned Parenthood will come and finish up the sex talks. Since my mom took me out, I leave class every Friday and work on alternative assignments. My friend told me that on the first Sex Friday, the teacher showed a comedy video where the comedian said ‘when boys masturbate, white stuff comes out and it’s God’s tears.’ This really disturbed me. I am glad I am not in the class on Fridays, but why is so much class time being used for stuff like this? We are intelligent kids. We don’t come to school to be entertained. We come to school so we can be educated to do something great with our lives. I feel cheated out of 15 hours of good biology lessons due to all of these Sex Fridays.”
A new bill, SB-673, introduced by Senator Morrell (R), aims to solidify the medial accuracy mandates of California’s sex ed curriculum as well as require an opt-in rather than an opt-out for parents of K-6th grade students. The bill will be brought to the seven-member Senate Education Committee in January 2020.