We get it. What other topic causes this kind of gnarly gut twisting parental discomfort?
But at More Than Sex-Ed we take our mission to support parents and guardians in their role as primary sexuality educators for their children very seriously. We recognize the widely varying perspectives parents have regarding sexuality and values. We consider this diversity a healthy part of our society and want to engage in respectful conversation surrounding our differences. Sex is personal, so of course each of us will process the whole scope of sexuality topics through the lens of our own values. Certainly we each bring our religious, cultural, and family perspectives to our understanding of sexuality.
Together we need to be able to talk about sexuality in ways that we can all agree support common outcomes reasonable people would like to see in our society:
- A significant reduction in sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, and abortions
- Healthier communication in intimate relationships
- Delaying sexual debut in underage young people
- More upstander intervention in circumstances of sexual harassment, assault or rape
- A drop in teen depression and suicide surrounding issues of sexuality, gender, orientation, and identity
- Greater understanding of power dynamics in intimate relationships
- Sexual behavior that is always developmentally appropriate, not coercive, healthy for all, and respectful of others
To paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts”, and we want to be scrupulous in grounding our conversations in evidence- based information from experts in the field, and sources we can verify.
Right now there’s a bunch of misinformation traveling through Californian parenting circles about what our state actually requires regarding sex-ed in schools. With the recently enacted Healthy Youth Act requiring that comprehensive, fact-based, inclusive sex-ed is provided to all California public school middle and high schoolers, and with new legislation on the horizon to clarify that charter schools must also meet the same standards, well, controversy is inevitable.
Let’s take a look at some of the confusion and resistance to the Healthy Youth Act.
Folks are afraid that they can no longer opt their children out of public school sex-ed.
This one is super easy to fact check here . The truth is that under the law:
- Parents can opt their children out of the whole school sex-ed program, or any individual sections of sex-ed class.
- Parents must excuse their children from sex-ed in writing.
- Parents must be informed of the school’s sex-ed program at the beginning of the school year.
- Prior to the start of sex-ed class, parents must be given access to view the curriculum and program materials that will be used.
- Parents must be notified at least 14 days prior to any program presented by non-faculty consultants, and given access to information about the consultants.
- There can be no disciplinary action taken upon children who have been excused in writing by their parents.
- Excused children must be engaged in alternative learning activities.
If the law didn’t allow parents to opt out, we at More Than Sex-Ed wouldn’t support it. But it does, and we do.
Assembly Bill 2601 has passed the Assembly and is now up for vote in the CA State Senate. What this bill proposes is clarification on the Healthy Youth Act language, making explicit that the law applies to charter schools. Charter schools are defined as,” publicly funded, but independently run.” Enrollment in charter schools continues to grow, and at this time about 10% of California school kids attend one.
More Than Sex-Ed loves helping charter schools provide sex-ed, and with our programs we always offer parent orientations, discussions, or webinars and make ourselves and our materials available to parents with questions or concerns.
"You are giving permission!?!"
One main myth we often hear is that comprehensive sex-ed will just give kids permission to be sexually active. Actually, no. This myth continues despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Kids need to learn about sex and practice speaking their values about sex before they find themselves in sexually charged situations. Studies show that when they do, they actually delay their sexual debut, and when they do become sexually active, they are more likely to use contraceptives and barriers to protect themselves from STIs and unintended pregnancy.
"All this identity and orientation stuff is too confusing for kids!!!"
Another common myth is that the complexity of gender and sexual identity is harmful for kids to learn about. That by learning there is more than the standard binary male/female model , kids get ideas to be something they are not. But there is no evidence that this happens.
Think about it. Quite the opposite experiment has been running for tens of centuries in our culture, in which folks have been expected to fit neatly into either the “pink” box or the “blue” box, with severe strictures imposed upon those who don’t conform. Pain. Ostracism. Death. And yet, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, intersex, and asexual folks continued and continue to persist. In trying to erase these identities, society causes suffering to real people. Diversity is a critical part of life on earth. Nature doesn’t have edges.
At More Than Sex-Ed we support each person’s right to identify their gender and sexual identity in whatever way makes sense to them. This includes folks who are comfortable in the standard binary model. If other ways of identifying gender, sex or orientation don’t apply to you, groovy. And we heartily support your right to make choices for yourself about your own sexual behavior that fit your values. It is however, important under the law that we do not marginalize and discriminate against people who express a minority identity.
Quite honestly, it has been our experience that most younger kids do not struggle with the concept of sexual and gender diversity. They are capable of accepting their friends and family members as unique individuals. It’s more difficult for older people who have spent a lifetime learning to function within binary gender roles.
With honest and compassionate conversation, kids learn to respect their peers while strengthening their own moral convictions.