The California Department of Education approved controversial changes to the state’s health and sex education framework on Wednesday, but removed five resources and books that some organizations called “sexually explicit,” including a book that explains sex to students as young as kindergarten.
Despite large protests, the department unanimously approved new guidelines for elementary school grades about sex trafficking, sexual orientation and how to support transgender and non-conforming students in the classroom.
The department’s meeting focused on revisions for the Health Education Framework, which makes K-12 public school health curriculum recommendations for the next decade. More than 120 people signed up for public comment to support or oppose the changes.
The meeting was preceded by a rally at Capitol Park, where nearly 200 people gathered to protest the framework revisions.
“How are they helping kids find themselves when they are confusing them about who they are, or they could possibly be nothing at all,” said Stephanie Yates, founder of Informed Parents of California. The organization has grown to over 20,000 members since it was founded last year.
Yates took to the dais at the meeting, and criticized Department of Education board members for approving decisions on behalf of the state’s children. Dozens of people who filled the building’s lobby cheered as they watched Yates on a live feed call the new revisions part of a political agenda and — like others — refer to the material as pornography.
But others supported the changes.
“What we are seeing in the Sacramento community is an open arms approach to this curriculum, “ said Cheri Greven, the local Planned Parenthood director of Public Affairs. “A number of parents spoke up saying they were in favor of this. One father told me it allowed him and his son to open a new line of communication about these topics.”
Most of the changes in the framework that stirred controversy involved sex education.
Several organizations have called the revisions “sexually explicit,” and say that the framework’s recommended books show how “offensive, reckless and immoral” the framework is. The education department removed five of the books, but clarified they were not banning the books. According to the state’s website, the books were listed as resources for parents to discuss sensitive issues with their children at home.
One book, titled “Changing You,” which was recommended for removal, shows cartoon illustrations of male and female genitals to educate students on the terminology. It also explains what “having sex is.” The book was recommended for transitional kindergarten through third grade.
“There are all kinds of alternatives, but they want to teach sex ed with the guise that they were trying to prevent sexual transmitted diseases and prevent teen pregnancy,” said Greg Burt, director of California Family Council. “Now we are teaching kids how to have a robust sex life. Not everything under the sun needs to be taught to our kids, with no moral judgment.”
Schools are not required to implement the framework; they are merely recommendations for teachers and administrators. Students can opt-out from lessons about sexual health. But the state says students can’t opt-out of lessons that include gender identity, discrimination and explain social issues such as the Supreme Court ruling of same sex marriage.
Full story at The Sacramento Bee.