Controversial California sex-ed class spurs parental rights law
by Laura Edghill
Posted 4/15/15, 03:58 pm
A controversial sex-education program at a California high school has provoked state lawmakers into proposing legislation that would increase parental rights over the content their students are exposed to.
The controversy started with a ninth grade sex-education course taught at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, Ca. The Bay Area school contracted with Planned Parenthood for the classes, and parents were shocked to discover the course material implied 13- and 14-year-old students were ready for sex by including instructions such as how to ask if it was OK to get undressed. The course also included a cartoon “Genderbread Person,” designed to prompt the young teens to question and explore gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation. The Acalanes Planned Parenthood instructors included a self-described “pleasure activist” and another who leads “pleasure workshops” for an adult toy store.
Parents protested and legislators listened, submitting a bill that would require written parental consent for any sex education classes taught by an outside provider. Like most states, California already allows parents to opt-out their students from sex education, but the proposed legislation would set a higher standard for classes outsourced to third parties. In those cases, schools would be required to use an opt-in process instead.
“There’s a growing outcry not just from people in that school district, but really across the state of California, demanding that the legislature … be reasonable to respect the rights of parents,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute.
Outsourcing sex education is not an unusual practice. While many schools around the nation use existing teaching staff, others have found local hospitals and medical professionals to be valuable contributors and guest presenters. But the content of those presentations can vary widely, ranging from orthodox and medically sound to agenda-driven and scientifically questionable.
Planned Parenthood claims to be the largest provider of sex education in the country. It offers free sex-education resources on its website and also regularly sends presenters to schools that have contracted its sex-education services.
Local schools typically maintain high levels of trust in their communities, Dacus explained. When issues like this arise, it erodes that trust.
“Our hope is that parents across the United States will be proactive and find out if their public school is allowing groups like Planned Parenthood to come in,” he said. “No reasonable parent who wants what’s best for their children should ever want their children to be instructed by these kinds of instructors that are provided by Planned Parenthood.”
This is not the first time Acalanes High School has drawn criticism for its stance on sexual issues. In January, students complained about bullying from members of the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), who gave presentations in freshman English classes. The students complained the QSA presenters questioned students on LGBT issues and singled out for ridicule those with traditional views of human sexuality.
Planned Parenthood has offered to send two alternative instructors to the high school, but the Acalanes District Governing Board might replace the organization entirely as the course provider. Board members will consider the issue during a meeting tonight. Acalanes is the only one of four high schools in the district that contracts with Planned Parenthood. The others maintain relationships with medically respected sex education resources, such as hospitals.
Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.