When Parents Stand Up for Sex Education, Schools Listen
The ongoing battles over sex education in schools isn’t anything new. Unfortunately, more often than not, the parents who want to get rid of comprehensive, accurate, and developmentally appropriate education have the louder voices. But this time, parents are standing up and demanding a better program.
The California Department of Education requires schools to teach HIV/AIDS prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school, which is defined as: “Instruction on the nature of HIV/AIDS, methods of transmission, strategies to reduce the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, and social and public health issues related to HIV/AIDS. And while schools aren’t required to teach sexual health education beyond that, those that do aren’t permitted to take an abstinence-only approach. In fact, the regulations require instruction and materials to:
teach that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only certain way to prevent unintended pregnancy; teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to prevent STDs; and provide information about the importance of abstinence while also providing medically accurate information on other methods of preventing pregnancy and STDs.
And lastly, the regulations state that:
Instruction is medically accurate if it is verified or supported by research conducted in compliance with scientific methods and published in peer reviewed journals and recognized as accurate and objective by agencies with expertise in the field, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
So when parents in the Clovis Unified School District argue that the current program illegally emphasizes abstinence and fails to provide accurate medical information, they’re coming from a pretty strong foundation. They’re claiming that the program Teen Choices (which was dropped by two school districts after they performed audits) isn’t up to par. Apparently, it teaches that open-mouth, kissing can spread HIV/AIDS and that sharing earrings can spread sexually transmitted disease, neither of which is true.
So who wrote this curriculum? Mac Shaw, a former minister with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master of divinity degree. I can’t find anything online suggesting that he has any training in sexology or sexuality studies. So I suppose it isn’t a surprise that Mica Ghimenti, a Planned Parenthood health educator in Fresno, said Teen Choices uses outdated information about the success and failure rates of condoms, among other misinformation. When it comes to assessing the accuracy of information about STIs and contraception, I trust Planned Parenthood.
At the moment, things are in process. The parents voiced their concerns to the school board, which directed the district to look into things. The district has 45 days to come into compliance with the regulations or face fines.
If you’re a California parent and you want to make sure that your kids’ schools are offering accurate sex education, I invite you to read the Dept. of Education’s FAQ. Golden Gate Community Health also has some great information. And if you aren’t here in California, find out what the requirements are in your area. Speak up, if you have to. School boards listen when parents stand up.