Although many Californians disagree about when and what our public schools should teach kids about sex, most agree schools should respect the right of parents to oversee the teaching of this sensitive subject. California’s controversial sex education law, “The Healthy Youth Act,” reflects this sentiment by promising parents a “streamlined process to make it easier” to access the curriculum and the ability to opt their child out of objectionable lessons. But in practice, many parents never get to evaluate the sex-ed curriculum, because schools make it difficult to see.
Earlier this year, Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) introduced Senate Bill 673 to address this issue, after hearing from parents like Denise Pursche, a mother of twins from the bay area, who struggled for over a month to see the new sex-ed curriculum for her fifth graders. At first, school administrators with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District would only send her lesson titles and vague curriculum summaries. But that wasn’t good enough for Denise. She wanted to see the actual lessons and worksheets to be used in the classroom.
After being sent on detours, and then asking again and again, Denise finally got a chance to look at the actual lessons being used, but she could only review them at the school district for a limited period of time. This is a common practice within California’s nearly 1000 school districts. School officials typically require parents to come to the school or district offices during school hours if they want to review the sex-ed lessons, a difficult prospect for single parents or homes with two working parents.
After Denise finally saw the graphic curriculum, she realized why school officials are in no rush to make these lessons easily accessible to parents. For example, one lesson in the Rights, Respect, and Responsibility curriculum by Advocates for Youth titled, “Sexual and Reproductive Anatomy,” has boys and girls, sitting side by side, reviewing a worksheet illustration of a woman’s genitals with her legs spread open. Children are to color and label each part of the woman’s sexual anatomy as the teacher describes each in detail, including which ones are “very sensitive.”
Denise was appalled, not only at the curriculum’s age inappropriateness, but the attitude some teachers and school administrators had towards parents. She discovered this after attending a meeting with teachers and principals from other elementary schools in her district. Denise remembers teachers discussing how parents shouldn’t review the sex education curriculum because “if parents reviewed the actual lesson plans, they would opt their children out of the lessons.”
“You see, district staffers believe that they know better than parents!” Denise said. “They believe they are the arbiter of what students need to know about sex. They are no longer teaching reproduction, or how human life begins, but are teaching sexual behavior and sexual pleasure.”
How does SB 673 provide parental oversight of sex-ed?
According to Senator Morrell, when it comes to sex education, parents must be involved, because they “are best able to determine when their children are ready to have these sensitive conversations.”
“Parents have the right to know what lessons are being covered in the classroom,” said Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga). “We want them to be engaged and involved in the education of their children. This sensitive material needs to be transparent.”
SB 673 has two main provisions:
- It requires school districts that teach elementary-age comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention to put that curriculum online for parental review.
- It restores the right of parents of elementary-age students (TK-6th grade) to opt their children into comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention education courses, rather than passively opt their children out.
The first hurdle SB 673 has to clear is the Senate Education Committee, which needs to hear the bill this coming January. (A tentative hearing date is set for January 15.) The following committee members need to hear from you and your pastor.
- Before calling or visiting these Senators offices, please consider calling up your local school district to see how difficult it is to see the sex-ed/ puberty curriculum used in elementary, junior high, and high school. Please share what you find out by filling out the following form.
- Download our Legislative tool kit.
- Visit: sb673.org
Senate Education Committee members:
Senator Connie M. Leyva (Chair) (San Bernardino – D)
Capitol Office (916) 651-4020
District Office: San Bernardino – (909) 888-5360; Chino – (909) 591-7016
Senator Scott Wilk (Vice Chair) (R – Lancaster)
Capitol Office (916) 651-4021
District Offices: Lancaster – (661) 729-6232
Santa Clarita – (661) 286-1471
Victorville – (760) 843-8414
Senator Ling Ling Chang (R – Brea)
Capitol Office: (916) 651-4029
District Office: Brea – (714) 671-9474
Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D – Los Angeles)
Capitol Office: (916) 651-4024
District Office: Los Angeles (213) 483-9300
Senator Steven M. Glazer (D – Antioch)
Capitol Office: (916) 651-4007
District Offices: Orinda – (925) 258-1176
Antioch – (925) 754-1461
Senator Mike McGuire (D -San Rafael)
Capitol Office: (916) 651-4002
District Offices: San Rafael – (415) 479-6612
Santa Rosa – (707) 576-2771
Senator Richard Pan (D)
Capitol Office: (916) 651-4006
District Office: Sacramento – (916) 651-1529