California: Inquiry Begins on Hart Program
December 8, 2006
In Santa Clarita, William S. Hart Union High School District officials said Tuesday they were investigating their sex education curriculum to see whether it violates state law, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently warned.
Under California law, public schools cannot invite speakers from faith-based groups or base sex education only on abstinence. If a district chooses to teach sex education, which is not required, the district must teach comprehensive sex education stressing abstinence and include medically accurate information on contraception, according to the state Department of Education (DOE). Schools are required, however, to teach HIV/AIDS prevention classes, which must also use the comprehensive program approach. Hart is among the 4 percent of school systems in California that do not provide sex education, said Sharla Smith, HIV/AIDS and sex education specialist for DOE.
Parents have complained that individual schools in the Hart District have brought in speakers, including some faith-based groups promoting abstinence until marriage, in violation of state law, according to ACLU's letter to the district. Sent two weeks ago, the letter claims some students were rewarded for signing abstinence-until-marriage pledges.
Smith said abstinence-only programs and speakers tend to bring religious doctrine into the classrooms, and they sometimes include inaccurate information. "I have yet to find an organization that claims to be abstinence-only that has medically accurate information," Smith said.
Daily News of Los Angeles
12.06.2006; Connie Llanos