Parents in a San Francisco suburb successfully halted plans for an updated sex education curriculum which they decried as “graphic” and “explicit.” The school board voted 2-2 on the changes Tuesday night, which required a majority to pass.
“The data in it was explicit, it was extremely provocative,” Sri Sarma, a parent in the South Bay area, told CBS News. “It was written with too much of suggestion.”
Parents objected to the graphic nature of the material, arguing that it went too far in portraying sexual acts to middle schoolers. The proposed curriculum included descriptions of vaginal, oral, and anal sex, along with material on homosexuality.
At the Cupertino Union School District board meeting Tuesday, concerned parents picketed the board with signs reading “Let children be children,” “Our kids are not ready for this!” “Support age-appropriate sex education,” “Over-exposure damages,” and “Do not put adult ideas in my child’s head.”
In January 2016, the state passed the California Healthy Youth Act, mandating comprehensive sex ed at least once in seventh or eight grades and once in high school. While the district has offered sex ed to children for years, the old curriculum no longer complies with the new law. But parents argued that an updated curriculum need not be as graphic as the proposed one.
“No where does it say that the material needs to be so explicit, neither are we saying we do not want to comply with the law,” Sarma explained. “All we are trying to say is let the material not be so much in detail.”
Another parent, Muni Madhdhipatla, complained that the proposed curriculum was “too graphic and too descriptive, and it’s leading kids in a certain way.” Cuttingly, this concerned parent added, “My best question to them is, are we teaching to perform or inform?”
After the meeting, the district formed a task force to choose new curriculum. Teacher Barbara Wooley, a member of the task force, disagreed with parents on whether their children were “ready” for such education.
“I think they’re definitely ready for it, I think some of them may be past their due date on being ready for this,” Wooley declared. “We’ve spent many years, probably 30 combined years, working with middle school students.”
The current curriculum dates back to 2003, which some seem to think of as the stone age.
“All of our old curriculum our videos were very heterosexual oriented,” Kristina Everhardt, a teacher, told CBS News. “Not just heterosexual-oriented but very male-female. One of our movies literally that I showed in 7th grade [sic] last year implied that boys were only looking for sex and girls needed to protect their virginity.”
Oh, the horror! Sex ed from a traditional perspective which values virginity! It seems that these parents might disagree with this interpretation of the old-fogey sex ed. Madhdhipatla, for instance, seems to think kids should be taught to inform, not to perform. How much say should the government have over each child’s sex education?
After the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage in June 2015, there might be reason to include homosexuality in public school sex-ed classes, but parents should have a say on what their children learn, when they learn it, and how it is presented to them. Kids need to learn “the facts of life,” and should be taught the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, but most parents might object to a one-size-fits-all public approach to sex-ed. Perhaps it is time for schools to let parents take the wheel on this intensely personal issue.
At least in this case, the parents have won out, for a while. Now, the district will have to find a new way to update their curriculum to comply with state law.