California adopted a controversial new framework of standards for sexual education earlier this month. Now, parents around the state are rallying around one question: “Why is it okay to expose young children to explicit and potentially confusing material?”
The “Health Education Framework” is designed to begin teaching about sex in the classroom as early as kindergarten. Among a range of issues covered are lessons on gender identity, sexual orientation, and how to best support transgender and non-conforming classmates.
While teachers are not forced to use the new standards, many parents are worried that the adoption of such material will expose their children to content they are not mature enough to handle. One parent, Jenica Williams, was worried how lessons in gender identity might confuse her kindergarten-aged son.
“Kids are being told to challenge gender stereotypes, and it puts in their mind that maybe they should be another gender,” Williams said. “How is that not indoctrination?”
The state currently allows parents to opt children out of lessons on sexual health, but requires all students to be in the classroom for lessons that include gender identity and discrimination or same-sex marriage.
Michelle Thomas, another parent, is supportive of all students being required to go through sexual education, and is happy that the lessons include information about LGBTQ students. However, she views the content provided by the new framework as far too explicit for the classroom:
Accurate information will help our children make important decisions about their sex lives…But when I look at the framework, I see that that they want to instruct instruct fourth-graders on masturbation and they teach that homosexual feelings are felt by all and are normal. I think that goes beyond what sex education should be. It feels like they are priming our very young children to be sexually active.
A group called Informed Parents of California is 25,000 members strong and is working on rallying parents across the state to push back on the standards. Parents in at least 40 out of 58 counties across California have committed to participate in protesting the framework. A widely distributed online petition to “protect children from being exposed” has also gained over 26,000 signatures.