California is becoming more inclusive in the way it teaches sex ed.
In a bill passed this week by the California Board of Education, teachers will be encouraged to discuss LGBTQ relationships and also offer safe sex advice for same-sex couples. Teachers will also begin discussing gender identity in kindergarten.
The move is not without controversy. While LGBTQ leaders praised the expanded curriculum, conservative groups and some parents were angered, CBS News reports. Several hundred protested outside the state’s capitol with signs that read, “Stop sexualizing my kids” and “respect parental rights,” while others supported the new guidelines and wore shirts like “protect trans students.”
Mother Michelle McNutt appreciates the focus on consent, the #MeToo movement, and healthy relationships. She told CBS News that it’s never too soon to teach these lessons to her 11- and 9-year-old daughters.
"Withholding medically accurate, scientific information from them actually causes more harm and does not actually protect innocence," McNutt said. ″If you don't give kids accurate information about their own body ... how are they able to make good choices?"
California OKs new sex-ed guidelines for teachers despite objections from parents, protesters https://t.co/Raw8HZ2yyx— Terry Long Sr (@EvilMe56) May 9, 2019
But some parents took offense to the new guidelines. Patricia Reyes traveled 400 miles with her six kids to demonstrate. Her 4-year-old daughter held up a sign that read, “Protect my innocence and childhood."
"It's just scary what they are going to be teaching. It's pornography," the 45-year-old mother told CBS News. "If this continues, I'm not sending them to school."
The California Department of Education is not requiring teachers to impart a certain lesson; instead, they compiled a 700-page document over three years to inform teachers of current health education research, with guidance on how to best incorporate it into the classroom. This document was influenced by a 2015 California law that declared LGBTQ issues should be included in sex education.
The document acknowledges that kids may identify as transgender as young as kindergarten, and offers tips for acknowledging that.
“The goal is not to cause confusion about the gender of the child but to develop an awareness that other expressions exist,” it says.
"I think that people hear the word 'transgender' or 'gender identity' in guidance for kindergarten through grade three and they think the worst," Stephanie Gregson, director of the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division at the California Department of Education, told CBS News. "It's really about civil rights issues."
Much of the backlash has to do with books the document recommends, one of which has been called “obscene” by California Family Council President Jonathan Keller for its frank discussion of varying kinds of sex.
Teachers also received guidance on discussing masturbation, alcohol use, smoking, nutrition, and injury prevention.
California is one of only 24 states in the US that has any kind of mandated sex education in public schools.
Last month, UK legislators voted overwhelmingly to include LGBTQ issues in sex education.
While those who identify as LGBTQ still face violence around the world, there are promising trends that show people are growing more accepting. The Terrence Higgins Trust, a sexual health charity, reports that 97% of young people support a more inclusive attitude.