The nation’s leading association of pediatricians, along with two parents, are declaring victory and ending a lawsuit against a Central Valley school district over providing students with adequate sex education.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and two local parents had sued the Clovis schools in August 2012. They charged that “the district’s abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum violated California law and put teens’ health at risk by teaching students misinformation and denying them instruction on critical topics,” reported the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs.
Now the plaintiffs are satisfied with what the ACLU called “dramatic improvements” in Clovis, a city of about 100,000 near Fresno. Changes to the sex education curriculum include removing “wrong and biased” materials, adding information about contraception and training teachers, the ACLU stated.
So they dropped the lawsuit — upon which the school district also claimed victory. Spokesperson Kelly Avants said in a written statement: “The Plaintiffs’ voluntary dismissal of all claims validates Clovis Unified’s sex education curriculum and the routine process through which we review and update curriculum in our schools on an on-going basis.”
California does not require schools to offer sex education. But if schools do, the state education code requires the course content to include medically accurate information about sexually transmitted diseases and contraception.
Aubrey Smith, one of the parents who sued, is a registered nurse. At the time the lawsuit was filed, she told “The California Report“:
“The current textbook for ninth grade has no information on condoms or contraception. It has no accurate information on how STDS are spread. They give tips for preventing the spread of STDs. The first tip is be abstinent, and then the second is get plenty of rest, third is go out as a group, and fourth is respect yourself.”
The ACLU wrote:
“When the lawsuit was initiated, the district’s high school curriculum provided no information about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy other than abstinence, and it included a video that compared a woman who was not a virgin to a dirty shoe. Today that video and others like it have been removed, and the curriculum includes accurate information about all FDA-approved methods of contraception and STI-prevention. To make instruction more inclusive for all students, information about sexual orientation has also been added.”
The school district maintains that such a video was never actually shown in class and that its curriculum has always complied with state rules:
“Clovis Unified’s ninth grade sex education curriculum, while always covering abstinence as required by the Education Code, has also always included instruction on contraception methods as required by the Education Code. The Plaintiffs’ allegation against the District’s curriculum as ‘abstinence only’ was, and continues to be untrue …”
Clovis Unified changed its middle school program in 2011 after parents complained that a former preacher was paid $37,000 to teach his Teen Choices curriculum to students each year. Two other districts were told by the state to give up this curriculum, because it gave misleading health information.