More than 200 protesters rallied Thursday outside of the state Capitol to protest the state’s push for comprehensive sex education and lessons on gender fluidity in California public schools.
The rally, organized by Informed Parents of California, called for a rejection of California Board of Education’s proposed Health Education Framework, which they said teaches students too much information and too soon.
The State Board of Education will vote to adopt the Health Education Framework in May, which provides guidance for teachers and administrators on how to teach health education.
The proposed framework covers a wide variety of matters including nutrition and physical activity, sexual health, alcohol and drugs, as well as mental, emotional and social health. Every school district has the autonomy to choose its own curriculum as it meets the state guidelines, according the California Department of Education.
Sexual orientation and references to families with lesbian and gay parents can already be referenced in classrooms to children as young as 5 years old, according to the state. The California Health Youth Act, adopted in 2016, requires school districts to ensure that students in grades 7 through 12 receive sexual health education and HIV prevention education.
“It’s important that you let the bureaucrats hear your loud voice when it comes to raising your children,” State Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee, said to the crowd. “It’s also important that your local school boards hear about you.”
America Figueroa, a Coachella Valley resident, attended the rally with her three children and said her children’s school and district refused to comply with her request to opt out of surveys and lessons referencing to sex education and LGBT issues.
Figueroa chose to opt her children out of the California Healthy Kids Survey, an anonymous, confidential survey that collects data on health risks, school climate and behavior. The survey, sponsored by the Department of Education, also asks about drug use and sexual orientation.
The survey is voluntary, according to the state, but Figueroa said she had trouble opting out her 10-year-old son, and his teacher pressed him to answer the questions.
Figueroa also opted her son out of learning sex education. The California Healthy Youth Act, known as AB 329, allows for public schools to teach sex education to children, and families can opt out. But Figueroa said she had no choice but to homeschool her children after they were pushed to take the state survey.
“We didn’t want to risk it,” she said. “If they didn’t respect my request for not allowing survey, which is less invasive than sex education, they would not respect this request.”
Courtney McDaniel of Roseville attended the rally and said the state shouldn’t strip parents of their right of how and when to discuss sensitive topics with their children.
McDaniel, a mother of a seventh grader and a kindergartener, said that if a boy is reintroduced to classmates as a girl, parents should be notified.
“We feel blindsided,” McDaniel said. “These discussions and the state framework teach children get younger and younger. It’s too much, too soon.”
The framework does not mandate what should or shouldn’t be taught, according to state documents. “It provides guidance in using inclusive classroom language to make all students feel comfortable at school,” according to state documents.
Students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are twice as likely to be bullied as their heterosexual peers, and are three times more likely to consider suicide, according to statistics from the department of education.
“Our priority is to make all children feel comfortable at school,” department of education spokesman Scott Roark said in a statement. “Dispelling myths, breaking down stereotypes and linking students to resources can help prevent bullying, self-harm, feelings of hopelessness, and serious considerations of suicide. CHYA and the health framework are critical steps towards this goal.”
In recent months, some Sacramento area residents vocally criticized Elk Grove Unified School District for adopting textbooks that included references to the LGBT community and its allies, and asked to opt out of lessons. California’s FAIR Education Act, passed in 2011, mandates that school textbooks and curricula be more inclusive of historically underrepresented communities, including members of the gay and lesbian community.