San Diego

School ‘Opt Out Day' Protests State's Sex Ed Curriculum

Parents have brought the issue to the school board at least three times in the last year

Parents across the state, including in San Diego, were choosing to keep their children out of school Friday to protest California's new sex education guidance.

The state's Board of Education approved this month to overhaul their guidance for public school teachers when it comes to teaching sex education.

The more than 700-page guidance includes ways in which teachers can talk to kindergarteners about gender identity, how to give advice to LGBT teens, advice on nutrition, alcohol and tobaco use.

It was designed as a recommendation for teachers as opposed to a requirement.

"It's absolutely a voluntary guidance document. Districts get to look at it and decide if they want to do it or they don’t, if they want to use some parts or if they don’t, but it's really a local decision,” said Music Watson, Chief Communications Officer from the SD County Office of Education.

But some parents feel the new guidance is state overreach and that their kindergarten-aged children should not be receiving sex education at all and have chosen to participate in a "Sex Ed Opt Out Day" in protest. 

“I didn’t think it was age appropriate. The curriculum does not reflect our community values,” said Melinda Polino, a parent.

They say the guidance is not age-appropriate and undermines their parental rights. 

“I saw what they were trying to teach my daughter which was that she has sexual rights of her own apart from the family and it was language that sounded like they were trying to drive a wedge between me and my child," said Polino.

The guidance gives tips for discussing masturbation with middle-schoolers, including telling them it is not physically harmful, and for discussing puberty with transgender teens that creates "an environment that is inclusive and challenges binary concepts about gender."

Much of the pushback has focused not on the framework itself, but on the books it recommends students read. One suggested book for high schoolers is "S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties." It includes descriptions of anal sex, bondage and other sexual activity — depictions California Family Council President Jonathan Keller described as "obscene."

Many of these parents say their districts aren’t listening, that they aren’t paying attention to what’s best for their families. 

"Under the law, parents have the opportunity to opt-out but they also have the right and the opportunity to look at the materials. So if you’re a parent and you’re not sure, I would say contact your school, contact your district and look at what that district or school is doing to teach these topics to your kids and then make the decision that’s best for your kids and your family,” said Watson.

Some San Diego parents have opted their kids out of school in protest of the controversial sex education program before. Last May, a group called Concerned Parents of San Diego held a one-day protest against the San Diego Unified School District board’s sex education curriculum known as SHEP.

The California Healthy Youth Act passed in 2016, requiring sex education at least once in middle school and in high school.

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