Orange County, CA
In the second week of April, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a new comprehensive sex education curriculum for middle and high schools. In attendance was the mother of a student, who after nearly a year of work, helped bring the change about.
She first became involved in advocating for her children’s school district to adopt a comprehensive program after seeing a report in May 2008 by the Community Action Fund of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties. The report found that only one local school district completely complied with the state education code which requires students to be informed of all federally approved methods for preventing unintended pregnancies. According to the report all others schools “almost universally” omit information in their health education courses about pregnancy prevention, and almost half do not provide complete instruction on the transmission of STDs.[i]
Citing this report, as well as others that showed that a majority of parents in California support comprehensive sex education, the concerned mother wrote to the school board asking for a change to more comprehensive education.[ii] After receiving the letter, the board formed a committee of parents, teachers, school nurses, and district administrators dedicated to researching the issue. The parent advocate was included in the committee, and 10 months later the group was able to recommend a curriculum that was unanimously supported by the school board.
The decision was heralded by a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties. “This is a very exciting development and really encouraging that a school district is setting this example of re-evaluating their curriculum and establishing it in all of their high schools,” she said. The parent is also exited about the “huge step forward,” but is wary that the new program is only set to be implemented in high schools. Health classes in the district’s middle schools were eliminated five years ago to make room for other academic classes, and the district is still trying to determine how it will fit the new middle school program into the class schedule.[iii]
“[Middle school] is when we want them to learn about growth and development and puberty,” commented the parent, who has a son in middle school. “Even if you’ve got a great curriculum, [late in high school] is just way too late to be presenting that information for the first time,” she continued.
At the school board meeting in April, the parent heard praise from the board members, who also assured her that the health curriculum committee will now be charged with exploring and ensuring the implementation of the middle school curriculum. SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.
[i] Yvette Cabrera, “A mother's persistence pays off,” The Orange County Register, 15 April 2009, accessed 27 April 2009, <http://www.ocregister.com/articles/school-education-district-2365441-chase-says>