OCEANSIDE — Sexual education may be one of the most divisive topics facing public schools.
And on June 26, the Oceanside Unified School District heard comments from parents, teachers and community members concerning the district’s curriculum. The district announced earlier this month it is temporarily suspending its TK-6 grade sex education curriculum, known as Rights, Respect and Responsibility, or the three Rs.
In January 2016, California adopted AB 329 (the California Healthy Youth Act), which covers comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education in public schools. The law states that comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention education is required at least once in middle school and at least once in high school.
As a comprehensive K thru 12-school system, the district elected a comprehensive approach to sexual health education that included instruction to students in grades TK-6. Parents may opt out of the TK-6 curriculum.
The district was also presented with a survey and its results on June 26. However, proponents of the curriculum railed against the survey, noting there were no filters to ensure only parents of district students and district staff were able to take the survey.
Seventh-grade teacher Lita Esposito and Max Disposti, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, said the results of the survey are skewed and flawed as opponents emailed the survey to people who live in other cities and do not support the curriculum.
Esposito said the district has never had any problems until the inclusion of LGBTQ education, and now religious groups are taking aim at curriculum based on sexual orientation.
District officials did not return a request for comment about the survey before publication.
“The survey was all over the place,” Disposti said. “The anti-LGBTQ people are in favor of the survey and against the curriculum. The survey was spread to other counties, like Orange County, and people could take it many times.”
However, many opponents said the education is not age-appropriate and gives too much detail too fast. Some championed for faith-based sex education and eliminating the curriculum from Advocates for Youth.
Dean Broyles, an attorney for the National Center for Law and Policy, a nonprofit defending religious freedom, traditional marriage and parental rights, said the curriculum must be based in medical fact, age appropriate and align with community values and respect parents’ rights.
Another Oceanside resident said the curriculum will lead to promiscuity and the district must develop education “without a perverse agenda.”
Yet another speaker said there is material not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the health and well-being of students is in the hands of the board. She also railed against Advocates for Youth and said the curriculum is not medically accurate.
“We want healthy kids, not corrupted kids” Broyles said. “We want you to pass age-appropriate education.”
Cassie Purdy, community organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said her organization is concerned with the district’s decision to suspend the TK-6 curriculum.
She said the curriculum is within the law and benefits students in many ways. Purdy said studies prove students delay sexual activity with more sexual education, it reduces teen pregnancy and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
Also, Purdy said, the curriculum is not just sex-based. The elementary education centers on the construct of a family and how to treat people.
Esposito said opponents are using material for parents only as “evidence” the education is overwhelming. Admittedly, she said the district rolled out the curriculum too fast, but the three Rs is an excellent curriculum.
“I am disappointed it was suspended,” Esposito added. “It’s histrionics and hysteria. They want to eliminate it across the board and use faith-based sex ed. That is against the law.”
Gabriel Babbitt, a professional athlete, said he is “shocked and sickened” by the district’s curriculum and it is robbing children of their innocence. He demanded it be removed and the district should instead instruct abstinence-only sex education.
“I am disgusted by this curriculum,” Babbitt added. “I was threatened by the board president (Ann Corwin) to be removed by police for disagreeing. Parents want abstinence.
Kindergarten lessons discuss different types of families such as extended, adopted, blended, interracial, gay and others, according to material on the district’s website.
First grade focuses on behavior and how to treat others, whether they are girls or boys. In second grade, the curriculum focuses on bullying and teasing, while third grade discusses respect for all.
In fourth grade, students learn about puberty from physical changes (menstruation, breast growth, acne and body hair, to name a few) of the body to emotional and social changes. The fifth-grade course covers puberty and reproduction, HIV, love and conflict situations with friends.
The district survey regarding the three Rs had 2,930 responses with 87 percent parents, according to the results. Thirty-nine percent of respondents were comfortable with the three Rs curriculum, 35.5 were against and 23 percent didn’t know. Opting in to the curriculum was supported by 42.5 percent of respondents, 38 percent would opt out and 18 percent had no preference.