New Sex Education Reform in California Receives Mixed Responses

Ever since the rise of sex education in the 1960s, debates as to the most appropriate way to implement these programs have existed. On February 19, the group “Informed Parents of California” put on a protest outside of school district offices in Chino, California, in response to the implementation of sex education curriculum under the California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA). They publicized this event under the title “SeXXX Ed Sit Out.”

Passed in 2016, the CHYA insists that comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention education be mandatory in both middle schools and high schools and that schools are responsible for providing medically accurate information about STD and pregnancy prevention. Additionally, according to the California Legislation Information (CLI) website, the law expands sexual education to include lessons on sexual orientation, gender identity, and relationships and refutes teaching strictly abstinence-only education. In recent months, the act has been actively incorporated in school districts across the state.

Parents involved in the sit-out took their children out of school for the day with an unexcused absence, so that the schools would not receive federal daily attendance funds. Of the complaints by the Informed Parents of California (IPC) organization, members seem to be particularly angered by what they believe is the removal of their rights as parents to choose what their children should know about sex and gender.

“We, California parents, will not allow our parental rights to be stripped from us,” says IPC leader Stephanie Yates. “We will not allow our children’s hearts, minds and bodies to be exploited for socio-political experiments and radical activist agendas. We will stop at nothing to protect our kids.”

Members of the group sent an open letter to the California Department of Education (CDE), claiming that the state is attempting to indoctrinate “children in scientifically unsubstantiated gender theory, from which the law disallows parental opt-out in the name of anti-bullying…[and that] children are taught negotiation skills for consent to sex.”

According to the CDE official website, former Superintendent Tom Torlakson explained that inspiration and support for this act came from Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that show that half of the twenty million sexually-transmitted illnesses that occur in the United States each year are accounted for by men and women ages 15 to 24. With these statistics in mind, education leaders believe that these outcomes are avertible through proper schooling and skill building.

Schools districts across California are attempting to alleviate parents’ concerns about the implementation of the recent state laws. In a response to Informed Parents of California’s protests reported by News Channel 3, the Palm Springs Unified School District released a statement insisting that they plan to make their curriculum available for parents to review, but ensure that all content will be age-appropriate.

Despite complaints, creators of the legislature claim that its intentions are not to take the power away from parents, but rather to “create a streamlined process to make it easier for parents and guardians to review materials and evaluation tools,” and to excuse their children if they wish to do so, according to the CLI website.

Although Santa Monica College’s (SMC) curriculum would not be directly affected because the law impacts middle schools and high schools, SMC students may have siblings or children who will see changes in their education.

"My sexual education was pretty lacking," says SMC sophomore Nicole Forster. "We rely on our education systems to equip us with essential knowledge about our bodies, but I felt they left us dangerously unprepared for the realities of sex, particularly for girls and LGBT youth.

As the sexual health education law continues to be incorporated into middle schools and high schools across the state, responses from parents and students in other regions may impact the future of this law’s longevity as a wide range of reactions may come to the surface.