Editorial: The sex-ed tumult

Updated school curriculum and process for adopting it draw fire

Who would have thought that in 2017 Palo Alto parents would find themselves in a debate over sex education?

For the last two months a passionate and persistent group of concerned parents, consisting mostly of Chinese-Americans, has organized a campaign to reverse the school district's adoption of new sex-education curriculum it believes encourages teen sexual activity and other unhealthy behavior and exposes seventh-graders to information some are not yet ready to hear.

While the parents insist they are supportive of "age-appropriate" sex education, their vocal objections to a program praised and supported by professional educators and reviewed by the state Department of Education has surfaced tricky questions about cultural differences within the parent community and how the public school system should handle such diversity of values when adopting district policy. They also raise legitimate questions about whether the district failed to follow its own procedures, including those that emphasize parent involvement in curriculum adoptions.

The focus of the parent concern is a 10-hour school unit that was implemented this spring for all seventh-graders by educators from Health Connected, a Redwood City-based nonprofit that has a long track record of developing sex-education materials and delivering them in school districts throughout the Bay Area. Palo Alto has worked with Health Connected for more than 10 years.

The sex-ed curriculum was revised and strengthened this year to meet the requirements of a new state law that took effect last year. That law, the California Healthy Youth Act, requires more comprehensive sex education for middle and high school students designed to provide students "with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect their sexual and reproductive health from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and from unintended pregnancy" and to "develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage and family."

A Palo Alto parent social-media campaign opposing the use of the curriculum erupted at the end of March after some parents became aware of a similar controversy in the Cupertino school district and began asking questions about the curriculum.

Since then dozens of speakers have used the "open forum" speaking opportunity at every recent school board meeting to express their unhappiness, often taking up more than an hour of meeting time and derailing other school business. Email campaigns have flooded the in-boxes of school board members.

In addition to objecting to the age appropriateness of the curriculum, parents took aim at the lack of parent involvement as is required by district policy for new major curriculum adoptions such as math or science.

On Tuesday, the school board finally addressed the matter on its agenda by discussing a recommendation by Superintendent Max McGee that the district improve its outreach to parents on the curriculum but not undertake the new review process being advocated by the concerned parents.

We agree with board members Terry Godfrey, Ken Dauber and Jennifer DiBrienza that a "reset" is neither necessary nor in the best interest of the community or students. The new curriculum, which was developed by a respected organization to meet the requirements of the new law, was found compliant by the state Department of Education and appropriate by district teachers. It has now also been the subject of substantially more public discussion than it would ever receive through any new committee process.

Trustees Todd Collins and Melissa Baten Caswell are also correct in pointing out that the issue was mishandled by district administrators and probably violated the district's own procedures for involving the public.

School officials should have anticipated some parent concern, publicized the issue and made the materials readily reviewable long ago. They should have held an information session for the board and public at a school board meeting last fall and presented a staff recommendation for approval by the board.

In a classic example of bad district-community communications, even today, after all the controversy, a search on the district website for "sex education" brings up no information. For a district with a full-time communications coordinator, there is no excuse for not making information on a current controversial school issue easily available on the web.

But one failure should not lead to another, and there are far too many more important issues facing our school district than to go through the motions of a months-long review process of 10 hours of curriculum that will add little or nothing to what has already been brought to light.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


36 people like this
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:34 am

This is another editorial that says two things at the same time.

If you believe that Melissa and Todd were correct that the district "violated the district's own procedures for involving the public" then provide evidence for that allegation. What is your evidence for that allegation? I dare you to read that AR and compose a coherent argument for violation of it.

If you think that Max McGee should have done a better job rolling out this new sex ed program, sure.

Jennifer DiBrienza cited the actual state law under which the district was required to offer the curriculum. She also cited the portion of the statute that directly authorized the district to hire a third-party provider to deliver the 10 hour program. And Health Connected is a state approved provider. That's it. The Administrative Regulation, which as you know is not a Board Policy at all nor does it have the force of any law or supersede state law, has nothing to say that is contrary to that. In fact, it says that this is fine and that if parents object to such materials they can have an opt-out for their child -- which was already given. So even if a process for an objection for an instructional material were to be held, it would lead only to the thing we already have, which is an opt-out.

You also note in your news coverage that it is only a 10 HOUR program, required and approved by the state law and the CDE.

You just are muddying the waters here and continuing to whip up a confused group of parents who have emotional and frankly homophobic reactions to the sex ed program. [Portion removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:48 am

@Thanks Weekly, I watched the meeting on TV, and McGee posted this part of the AR 6161.1 on his slides and seemed to imply that he thought it was applicable. I would love you to explain how this does not apply to this situation? It seems to be designed for the adoption of materials to be widely used, but less than a full curriculum - exactly this situation as far as I can tell:

Materials to be purchased for use with 10 or more students that are not included on a Board approved list shall be subject to the selection procedures as noted on the following sections.

District Level Selections. Supplemental and elective course materials selected for use at more than one site shall be reviewed through the following process:

Supplemental and elective course materials for grades 6 through 12 shall be reviewed for compliance with policy criteria by the appropriate curriculum steering committee with community representation.

It seems to me a lot of people feel the end justifies the means when they like the outcome, but not when they disagree.

28 people like this
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 8:12 am

Health Connected IS on a board approved list. The AR 6161.1 includes a board approved list that requires no additional process. The approved list states that materials approved by the state (which Health Connected is) need no further approval.

In addition, this wasn't actually a curriculum adoption, it was the hiring a third-party provider under the Healthy Youth Act, which is mentioned in the Weekly's own news coverage but omitted from this poorly-drafted and rambling editorial.

McGee's presentation actually cited AR6161.11, on supplemental materials which requires no approval process. This district has many many materials that are in use every day in every classroom in the district that requires no approval whatsoever. Again, parents can opt out of those materials. That's the remedy. That remedy was provided.

The AR is inartfully drafted. It could have been better written. It is ambiguous and confusing. Under those conditions it is appropriate to defer to the interpretation of the agency that drafted the regulation, which in this case is the district.

[Portion removed.]

36 people like this
Posted by Needs serious review
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 8:29 am

Missing from the Editorial is that the failure to consider parent concerns can cause alienation of many parents and consequently students from rightful sex education that should not be left at "take it or leave it" or opt-out.

Of all subjects, you need parent buy-in for this subject. At the very least significant parent outreach.

As the editorial, Board members are all trying to be too clinical.

Time for people to come together to do what was not done in the place - involve parents, and forget ethnicity. The fact parents' concerns are being labeled as "cultural" is condescending and frankly shocking.

26 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 9, 2017 at 9:02 am

This article implies that sex ed is unimportant as it is only a 10 hours class and teaching it is just checking off a box as done.

Instead, this is something crucial that will affect every one of our students for the rest of their lives in a way that an AP class won't. We want every one of our students to have healthy sex lives in the future. We want them to be well adjusted sexually and socially. We want them to know how to make the right choices for themselves. We also want them to know that however they feel about sex, it is perfectly "normal".

I tend to think that the materials used in this class are much more important than which book they study in English class.

7 people like this
Posted by parents
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:39 am

PAUSD is not known for following guidelines (check the recent news reports on sex assault). The board and the superintendent should make their decision based on objective judgment rather than personal feelings/emotion. There are published guidelines for the due-diligence process. Provider selection should be based on peer review rather than favoritism. (Recommendations from a few parents are good but not sufficient.)

16 people like this
Posted by SP
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:40 am

"that will add little or nothing to what has already been brought to light"

How can you predict that? How can you possibly justify refusing to fix a process based on your own bias?

If I remember right, parents objected to introducing young children to portrayals of violent conduct, alcohol and drug abuse together with disturbing sexual activity. The assumption here is that "these children have seen is all before", and that is simply not true. If that is true for you, don't project that to other children's experiences. You don't know, and its up to the parents to figure out when to introduce these concepts to their children, not YOU.

If these graphic portrayals and mature concepts are truly state mandated, then the state got it wrong and the district should stand up to the state. We all have no problem with cities standing up to the federal government immigration policy (and rightly so at times), or our state taking the lead on marijuana legalization. Why can't we expect our school board to do the right thing when others are doing it wrong?

26 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

Novelera is a registered user.

It's just mind boggling that these parents that want to curtail their children having sex education can't see that knowledge can be a useful tool to prevent, not encourage, too early and inappropriate sexual activity by adolescents.

25 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

Waay back when I was in high school, there was NO information about relationships, dating, sex, etc. There was little need, either, because I was not exposed to the NEED for information; I had no clue about sex. It was extremely rare for a classmate to drop out due to pregnancy, or get an STD (no HIV risk back then, either).
It was quite different when my children were attending Paly. They really needed information to help them make difficult decisions about drugs, alcohol, healthy relationships and sex.
Now my grandchildren are in school, and the environment is considerably more dangerous and children need more information, not less. I was never cautioned about walking home alone, talking to strangers, accepting a ride offered, taking drugs, alcohol or having sex - those things were not yet a concern.
Things were different for my children. We and the schools tried to make sure they were safe, even from first grade. Even with all our efforts, cautions and warnings, our children did not make it through high school unscathed. Some of their friends and classmates got pregnant, others got into drugs and alcohol, a very few committed suicide.
I believe the environment is even more dangerous today. Students need more education, and also more emotional support. Healthy relationships in a safe social network are even more important today. Ignorance is dangerous. Knowledge is the key to knowing how to react in situations that are unfamiliar and potentially dangerous, and knowing how to get help in dealing with the situations would be a tremendous benefit. I think some of the suicides and Title IX issues the schools are dealing with could have been prevented if the victims had known what to do and how to do it.
If I were attending high school today, I would want as much information about the risks and dangers that surround me as possible. I doubt my friends would be good sources, just as they are not good sources of knowledge about math, English, History, etc.

20 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 9, 2017 at 1:43 pm

If this was a curriculum to be used every day, this ruckus might be worthwhile. If the law has been followed, and parents are still upset, that is what "Opt outs" are for. If the law has not been followed, that is what lawyers are for. Only in PA can 1000 people make a ruckus about 10 hours of school!

11 people like this
Posted by zero leadership
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:37 pm

"This article implies that sex ed is unimportant as it is only a 10 hours class and teaching it is just checking off a box as done."

That's exactly how the 3 board members who voted to keep the status quo viewed it: "It's only 10 hours of class, why bother?"

Unfortunately this board lakes any kind of leadership. It used to be that you could go to the board if you had issues with the district. With this and a whole host of recent issues, the board has shown not to have any interest in supporting the kids and parents.

7 people like this
Posted by PA parent.
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm

It looks like the elected trustees are too busy to review the materials. The contents are, in general, okay, but, too predictable and too hollywood. They also included some irrelevant materials. (what does ethnicity get to do with sex, alcohol and drugs (SAD)?) Also, some may find it denigrating to certain cultural/religious practice. One would think PAUSD would pick something with more depth and more substance.

It is wishfully thinking to think that the kids do not already know (and experience) sex, alcohol and drug (SAD). It is more wishfully thinking to think that this sex ed is a solution. It is just a checkbox for the schools and the parents.

PA news should read the material before reading another column about it.

13 people like this
Posted by Supporting Our Sed Ex
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Thank you for the thorough recap and background. I'm in full support of the sex ed curriculum as implemented by the PAUSD. Opt-out was sufficient. Approvals and requirements were met. Our curriculum correctly "leads" our community in the direction it needs to go for our children to learn safe attitudes and habits. Our curriculum should not "mirror" cultural norms that are a moving target (often in a regressive direction).

So thank you to the weekly for this editorial (mostly) in support of the sex ed curriculum as implemented. My only critique is the nod to Collins and Caswell's objections dilutes the message and is arguable.

All my best...

Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Factoid
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed.]

17 people like this
Posted by 7th grade parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Our 12 yo was present for all the curriculum, taught in part by the science teacher and taught by an outside expert.

I support the teaching of sex ed. During this class, I learned that my student knew of many students at his middle school who are engaging in sex, oral and vaginal. Moreover, I learned there was a very big rumor that there was a Chlamydia outbreak at the middle school.

Although my 12 yo was incredibly uncomfortable learning this material in a mixed gender environment (in contrast to heart to heart done through Stanford or the 5th grade class), the conversations were meaningful every day. We had conversations every day for about two weeks, if not more, about everything from mechanics to birth control and to my own experiences. If you did not know, the class curriculum requires two parent surveys which are completed by the student, which ask fairly forward questions, which I'm not sure I would have shared with my student until my student was a little older, but such is life.

There is fantastic dialogue about the self and sexuality and about consent, but I'm concerned most kids aren't mature enough or experienced enough to remember this important material when it is time for them to use it. Although some students are sexually active, they are in the very small minority in 7th grade. I wonder if the curriculum should be split across 7th, 8th and 9th in smaller doses, so students can absorb it when they are more ready. Although the state did approve the curriculum for grades 7-12, it certainly does not mandate it be provided in 7th grade. Food for thought.

17 people like this
Posted by ms fit
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:10 am

What are we doing with our kids?
Push them with extra math outside of school and get them on intense sports teams and send them on trips all over the world but but hold back their sex ed!!

Like this comment
Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:14 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:32 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

20 people like this
Posted by Caucasians too!!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Not sure why the editorial has to emphasize the concerns to be coming from a distinct ethnicity. That does not help the discussion, so don't single them out. I am caucasian, my kids underwent the sex talk this spring.
1) the district AND the provider were not able to demonstrate data security at the parent info night. Like a commenter suggested, the questionnaire could make you uncomfortable. Anonymity of the questionnaire is questionable when the form has a space for your name on it. The provider does NOT have a process in place to safely store and destroy the data. It was clear they had not even thought about the data safety. Not an issue you say? Yup, right until a SV celebrity's sex life is being made public just because the provider could not keep private information safe...
2) since when is intercourse through the backdoor a safe practice? Why is the image of copulating males forevermore imprinted into my children's minds? It is the normalization of these practices that I have a problem with. I guess many commenters have no idea what 2017 sex ed is about. Teach them abstinence and SAFE practices, fine, but in the end our future depends on our children creating healthy relationships and, surprise, procreating.
3) the PAO editorial writes in favor of the sex ed curriculum now, so it must be A-OK? I don't think so. It needs to be revisited with our children in mind. As usual, compliance has trumped common sense.
4) why is a third party required to present the curriculum? Why are the science teachers not deemed competent to teach sex ed? In my book it's another example of lavish spending. I expect the school board to take good care of our tax dollars. Oh, I see, my mistake.

7 people like this
Posted by just a mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2017 at 7:07 am

@caucasian said that "intercourse through the backdoor a safe practice? Why is the image of copulating males forevermore imprinted into my children's minds? It is the normalization of these practices that I have a problem with"

That [portion removed] horrifying comment has sat on this "community" message board for 11 hours for gay teens and all the world to see.

[Portion removed.]

They are entitled to their values for their kids, which is why there is an opt-out. But they are not entitled to impose their religious morality on the community.

I personally wonder at the opt-out. Sex ed, particularly about STDs and how they are transmitted and how to prevent them, is much like immunization. Un-immunized members affect the health of the larger group. Personally I wouldn't allow the opt-out.

[Portion removed.]

By failing to report on the connection of the religious right [portion removed] the Weekly has obscured rather than thrown light on the situation. You have missed the story. The story is the Catholic Church and evangelicals and their anti-gay anti-woman agenda.

Like this comment
Posted by just a mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2017 at 7:14 am

Here's the Catholic story: Web Link

[Portion removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Pragmatic and private
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2017 at 8:10 am

@7th grade parent,
Thank you for your truly thoughtful post. I agree with your constructive suggestions. Am I understanding this correctly that the parent questionnaire was answered and brought to school? Or just something to discuss at home?

It occurs to me that the district, or even the parent group if the district won't, should find a curriculum designed for parents who are in too remote an area to have access to sex ed programs in school, have children in independent study, or otherwise prefer to have the education happen in private in the home. Giving families a good resource that shows them how to provide the education in stages, in the home, as is appropriate for their own child and values, might ultimately be more individualized and appropriate. Since families can opt out, the choice shouldn't be nothing. These families aren't saying they are against sex ed, they say they are against this curriculum.

To the families, I would ask that question: could you find a resource that helps parents provide this same education, only better, over a more sustained period of time, and with the ability to match the education with developmental and social milestones of your child and immediate community, and lets you tailor the program to your values? Then sex ed could happen within homes as an alternative, rather than parents feeling like they have to not educate their kids by opting out. There are so many widely available education resources. Homeschool and autonomous school families must use something. N(Homeschool used to be primarily religious but the majority aren't anymore, homeschooling is becoming a custom ed option - and there are millions of people, more than in charter schools nationally.) My guess is that there are options. Independent schoolers must have sex ed programs. What do they use? Could the parents protesting here find a few good resources and share them with the public (with your reviews of them) so that people who want to opt out have better choices? Especially people who want to have help sustaining the education, in the home, over a long period of time. I would be interested in such a curriculum.

Ask the district to provide options, but if they don't, please consider finding a few and sharing them with the community. Let me tell you, getting this district to follow its own procedures is a whole can of worms, and you may never get satisfaction. Put your energy into getting the kids what they need. Please find materials families can use at home, over a sustained time period, and that help families tailor the education. Please share those with the rest of us. Whether you continue to protest is up to individuals, but I would love to see people put on their own oxygen mask first and get the resources kids need in the meantime. Perhaps the Weekly could track some down, too? Stanford medical professionals, any suggestions?

5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 11, 2017 at 8:22 am

Please can someone share exactly what questions are being asked of parents by their children in the questionnaire?

We talk to our children about sex, but there are some personal things that we consider are just not their business. I would not expect to ask my parents about their sex experiences and I don't expect to talk to my children about mine. Bedroom privacy is not sex education.

11 people like this
Posted by Non religious
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 11, 2017 at 8:30 am

@just a mom; you are 100% INcorrect that this is a religious issue. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with science and nature. And @caucasion's comment about normalizing gay acts is 100% correct and what is the root cause of many parents concern.

2 people like this
Posted by just a mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2017 at 9:57 am

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by 7th grade parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2017 at 11:51 am

@Non religious: "And @caucasion's comment about normalizing gay acts is 100% correct and what is the root cause of many parents concern."

In case anyone was in doubt of the homophobia fueling much of the opposition to the sex ed.

State law requires that students learn of all ways STDs can be spread. No matter what sex ed curriculum is chosen, anal and oral sex will be taught--which, by the way, are practiced by heterosexual people too. Your issue is not with Health Connected but with the law.

[Portion removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by Caucasians too!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2017 at 1:21 pm

This issue really is bigger than parents knowing what's age appropriate for their children or not.

There is a connection to the ACLU, as stated in Web Link, and to Planned Parenthood, as a Palo Alto parent found out according to the article that @just a mom shared. These organizations have NO BUSINESS in our schools!!! Churchill Ave should protect our children, instead they serve them on a silver platter now, and they'll do it again in two years.

I am pretty sure the vocal parents at the board meeting did not emphasize this enough - the school district and the State of California are pushing age inappropriate content as part of a specific doctrine. It is those connections that make the fight against the sex ed ("by golly, it's just 10 hours!") so futile. And if all else fails, critics are confronted with compliance reasons. I completely understand the frustration and anger of those parents who spoke out at the board meeting. If you critique any part of the whole complex, you argue against a moving target.

IMHO we must object to the involvement of third parties in K-12 education. My personal opinion is that ACLU and PP can be considered predatory here, as their agenda does not benefit our children. Au contraire. If you want to approach political doctrine at school, use the social science class. Educate our children to recognize the manipulative patterns and thought processes. I have my hopes up that high school will surprise me positively, but I digress.

Just to be clear here, I am a proponent of sexual liberty. In a retro sense at least, when ideologues did not have the leverage to transgress into our public education system. Trying to put my comment in a homophobic light is not working. That's a symptom of the doctrine I am referring to: the comment above is trying to invalidate my contribution by reframing an arbitrary part of what I said. Mind you, I am calling out the technique, not the person. Cry wolf as much as you like, the argument is weak and the points I made above still stand. They deserve to be answered.

Someone expressed their wish to see the questionnaire. I can offer what little details I have memorized. First thing, you were asked to put your (the parent's) name on it. [N.B.: That was the moment where suddenly I had Ms. Caucasian's attention.] First topic, you were asked to share with your child the first time you had sex. The way the question was framed, it took off on the physical part and location, not courting, handholding, candle light and kisses. Debatable, but that's how we saw it.

If I find my copy of that thing, I'll post the content here.

Here is something else to think about - the provider dug their heels in at the parent info night about details of the 10 hour course. The subjects and class room materials were "proprietary" and could therefore not be shared with the parents. Really? Had they admitted to talking about anal sex and abortion to 7th graders, it would have been enough to send them packing right then and there.

It goes without saying that the school admins let the provider get away with this nonsense argument.

Let me point out that the parents' buy-in was never a goal of the parent info night. It was a show of hands, or better of carrot and stick. If you were pondering to opt your kids out, you'd dropped the idea because you learned that the kids would be given fringe topics (think birds and bees) to write essays on instead of quality learning or study time. It's anybody's guess how high the opt-out rate would have been without surrogate activities with clear punitive intent.

It is this kind of stonewalling that should make every parent suspicious. In the end, ACLU and Planned Parenthood won, at least in PAUSD and in 2017. All those years I thought all humans were created the same way, with basically the same parts, and that sex ed was part of public health. It really is a political issue today, and parents have the right to demand we change it back. Kudos to the Cupertino parents who were able to buy some time.

I am urging parents of 12 yrs and younger to educate themselves about the materials provided, and about the provider. @just a mom's link was very useful, even though the attempt to pin the issue on a religious worldview is misleading. It can't be pointed out enough that identity politics is behind this. And money, too.

4 people like this
Posted by just a mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2017 at 2:40 pm

quod erat demonstrandum

Thank you @caucasians for posting your ideas here.

Well I think my work here is done. Thankfully your admissions about the motives of the sex ed opponents to oppose dthe ACUL, Planned Parenthood, and their supposed anal sex agenda will not deleted as were my reports of them.

9 people like this
Posted by Caucasians too!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2017 at 4:09 pm

@just a mom, my apologies if my comment suggests that you've been trying to mislead away from identity politics towards religion. That connection was made by another commenter.

Anyone is welcome to interpret my words as they like. However, if one tries to extrapolate them to be the distilled voices of "the" sex ed opponents, one is gravely mistaken.

All I am saying is, back to the drawing board with this program. Cut the indoctrination.* Use a provider that does not have to conceal their identity by setting up a separate non-profit whose name is not tainted, and that does not advertise their own services in a K-12 class room. Instead, turn to medical professionals, or use the science educators who are sitting through those 10 hours anyway.

And, "sex ed opponents", just so you know what you are up against. If you are arguing for an abstinence-only curriculum, your opinion might oppose CA law, see here Web Link

*)Just to give one example that in my eyes is not acceptable, yet it is d'accord with our educators:
..., reproductive justice policy director for the ACLU of Northern California, said the law defines age appropriate as when young people are developmentally able to process information taught to them.
"It does not mean have they reached the age at which their parents feel comfortable with them receiving the information," she said. (Web Link)

Hell yeah it does, that's why it's called parenting and not governing!

15 people like this
Posted by My prediction
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm

I said it before and I'll say it again: age-inappropriate "instruction" and/or indoctrination of outlier practices better left to more mature students will lead to: a HUGE increase in the number of private schools in this state. Doesn't matter if it stems from the state of California educational requirments, of those of local public entities. Nothing to do with religious affilated schools, either.

16 people like this
Posted by I Know This Much is True
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 12, 2017 at 2:34 pm

I have heard from my son, who will be in eighth grade, that many, perhaps most, of the kids from China want very, very much to take this class.

Their parents are very, very much against the class, though, which apparently their children feel humiliated by.

I hate the thought that the parents from China do not talk to their kids about these things.

16 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Thank you for the information about the questionnaire

I for one will not be telling my kids when I first had sex. It is none of their business and it is none of their teachers business.

I will talk to my kids about sex between people in a loving relationship and the responsibilities it brings. I will tell them that sex is not a game to be played, a method of coercion, bartering or blackmail, and should not be undertaken by anyone who isn't ready for the commitment that a sexual encounter involves.

Apart from the invasion of privacy, I am very concerned about the "my Dad earns more than your Dad" and "my Mom had sex before your Mom" boasts. Kids are not likely to respect the privacy and quite often not as truthful with their peers as kids will be kids.

Then of course, what will happen to these completed questionnaires in the future? In case one of us parents become famous and rich in the future, what fodder for future blackmail and papparazi!

4 people like this
Posted by 7th grade parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

@Pragmatic and private

The surveys were completed at home with a parent and returned to school.

The information is not information I would have shared with my student until my student was 16 yo or older. Timing is everything with teenagers, and I would have preferred to have picked the timing as I did with one of my other children already.

I strongly suggest the SEL material for high schoolers be moved to middle school and this sex ed curriculum be moved to the freshman, sophomore and junior years of high school, where it belongs. SEL is perfect for middle school.

12 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 12, 2017 at 7:50 pm

The parents and the protests against this sex ed curriculum are equally bizarre. Much of what make Palo Alto unpleasant to live in is right now is encapsulated by these protests. The weather is nice; the aggressive parents, not so much.

7 people like this
Posted by Caucasians too!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2017 at 9:32 am

Our science teacher has a middle schooler, and was sympathetic to our privacy concerns. The kids got a pass. We never returned the questionnaire.

1 person likes this
Posted by Caucasians too!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2017 at 10:46 am

@7th grade parent, could you please elaborate what SEL material is? Maybe share a link? Thanks!

4 people like this
Posted by Caucasians too!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2017 at 1:27 pm

@Michael, it is the aforementioned institutions, namely ACLU and PP who are taking an aggressive stance. The parents who are speaking their mind have seen the materials now, and obviously they did not like what they've seen. I can't condemn them for speaking up. Neither do I feel it is appropriate to single out ethnicities, like some comments and the author of the editorial did. How dare they.

Here is an interesting read, a report of a 2016 summit on reproductive health in adolescents, written in plain english: Web Link

Allow me to quote from the report, as I feel that the attendees of this summit understand that sex ed is about our children, not so much about us: "... Frame sexual health education in the context of peer and romantic relationships appropriate to age and developmental stage. For example, explore the emotional drivers of behaviors at different stages of relationships, such as when a relationship begins or ends. ..."

The key here is "relationship", rather than mechanics.

I find a deep understanding of neurological science and a warm attitude towards adolescents in the ETR report. There is no emphasis of minority rights and the law, simply because they are secondary to sexual health. They have science on their side. ACLU is compelled to sue school districts in order to push their agenda, and willfully overrides what guardians and parents think about age appropriateness. That's politics. Sadly, PAUSD has sided with the latter.

Another great resource is this: Web Link I was half way through the article until I realized it's from 1994.

"... Overall, parent-child communication is far less important in influencing sexual behavior than parental discipline and supervision. One study, based on teenagers' own reports of levels of parental control, shows that teenagers with moderately strict parents had the lowest level of sexual activity, whereas teens with very strict parents had higher levels, and those with very permissive parents had the highest levels. Moreover, there is a strong empirical relationship between diminished parental supervision and early sexual activity. ..."

Food for thought. Health Connected aims to"empower" kids to "own" their sexual behavior. I will side with science, and share responsibility with my child.

1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 13, 2017 at 2:32 pm

I have come back into this discussion again as I think it is very worthwhile and helpful to me as a parent, so I thank those of you taking part and also to the Weekly for allowing it.

As a parent who is neither an educator or a medical professional, I have seen that there is a lot lacking in my own knowledge of the subject. Just because I am a parent and have had sex does not make me an automatic expert in teaching this subject to my own children as there is so much more than I thought until I came into this discussion.

As said earlier, it is more important, in my opinion, to teach this subject well in our schools because we want our children to go on and have healthy and happy sex lives in the future. For this reason, the subject is much more important than any AP or elective material. Having done some research and also talked with my spouse and other adults, it seems very important that things which were never discussed in my own personal sex ed classes or anything my own parents taught me should be included in what is being taught in our schools. These things, along with the dangers of drugs, alcohol, unprotected sex, consent, acceptance and respect are all very important for a young person to take into their adult lives.

It is clear to me now that we should be teaching about what happens in the female body after conception. From memory, what I know about this I mainly found out in some of the material I read when we were expecting our first child. Learning about heartbeats at 6 weeks and fingernails/toenails at 12 weeks, the mother feeling the baby move at 16 weeks and the viability of a baby born at 22 weeks gestation, should all be well taught as part of sex ed. I think that since anal and oral sex are being discussed in sex ed it is also important to teach about the links to increases in such things as various cancers among the communities that practice these types of sex.

If my own knowledge is not sufficient to adequately teach what I think my own children should know, then I suspect a great many other parents are the same. I do feel that my children should know these things and it should be taught with every possible caution. I can't see that promoting sexual behavior in adolescents is a good idea. I would much rather see a factual curriculum which provides the risks of early and promiscuous behavior as well as the healthy lifestyle of sex in a committed, loving relationship as being the ideal.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After 39 years of cakes and pastries, Palo Alto institution Prolific Oven to close
By Elena Kadvany | 55 comments | 16,536 views

What is your climate personality?
By Sherry Listgarten | 35 comments | 1,905 views

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Process Explained
By Steve Levy | 5 comments | 1,225 views

Do something about assault weapons, now!
By Diana Diamond | 35 comments | 1,073 views

"You Gotta Have Balls [to do counseling] . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 878 views


Early Bird rates end today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families. Early Bird prices end Sun., Aug 18.

Register now