Senate Democrats’ commitment to transparency will be put to the test by a new bill introduced at the state capitol requiring school districts to post sex education lessons online for easy parent access. A similar bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last year, SB 673, but was rejected by Democrat Senators over requiring teachers to get a parent signature before teaching sex education lessons in elementary school.
Yet, Senate Education Committee Chair Senator Connie Leyva previously said she was “100 percent” on board with putting sex education lessons online. “We have worked with you for over a year on this bill. We agree with you,” Leyva said during the January 15, 2020 hearing (1:20:48 minute mark). “I agree with you on the online and transparency piece 100 percent. …[but] I made it very clear that the opt-in piece would make it something I could not vote on.”
Republican Senator Brian Dahle is the author of the new version of the bill, SB 217, now that the former author, Senator Mike Morrell, was termed out of office last year. The new bill specifically requires school districts to post online for parents all “written and audiovisual educational materials used in comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education.” SB 217 no longer requires schools to get parental permission before sex education is given to elementary age kids, as Morrell’s bill did.
“Legislators have no excuse for rejecting this bill again,” said California Family Council President Jonathan Keller. “They claim to want parental involvement in the education of their children. They claim to believe in government transparency. Practically, that means parents should have easy access to content known to be controversial. This bill will let legislators demonstrate what they claim by their actions.”
Some school districts, like San Francisco Unified School District, make it easy for parents to see sex education lessons online, but many do not. Denise Pursche, a mother of twins from the bay area, 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 office for a limited period of time. It is common practice for school officials to 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.
Denise decided she didn’t want other parents to go through the same experience she did, so she came to the state capitol to advocate for change. With the help of the California Family Council and some other faith-based organizations, her proposal for a bill is now under serious consideration. And now that school districts have adapted to teaching students online, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, it will be harder for them to claim the process is too hard or expensive for them to comply.
Social conservatives have long complained that California’s sex education curriculum is too sexually graphic and conflicts with traditional religious beliefs in the areas of gender and sexual identity, and sexual behavior. This is especially true after the passage of the California Healthy Youth Act in 2015, which mandates LGBT affirming sex education classes in junior and high school, and permits it in elementary school. Knowing the controversial nature of the curriculum, many times school districts try and avoid widespread controversy by keeping the details of the lessons away from busy parents.
As a result, many parents remain ignorant about what their children are learning regarding sex and gender. If this bill passes, that will no longer be the case.
SB 217 has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee with a hearing expected after February 13. The exact date has not been scheduled. Make sure you call the members of the Senate Education Committee listed below and let them know of your support for Sex Education Transparency.
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 Dave Cortese (D – San Jose)
- Capitol Office: (916) 651-4015
- District Office: Campbell (408) 558-1295
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