The Lompoc Unified School District board of education approved the district’s new sexual health and education curricula on Tuesday evening, capping an extended vetting process that was sparked by outcry from some parents and community members last September.
The board voted 4-1 to adopt two separate curricula: “Teen Talk” for seventh-grade classes in the district’s middle schools, and “3 Rs: Rights, Respect, Responsibility” for ninth-grade health classes at the high schools. Both educational programs satisfy the requirements of the California Healthy Youth Act, which was passed in 2016 and requires, among other things, that school districts provide comprehensive sexual health education, as well as information about HIV prevention, at least once in high school and once in middle school.
The lone vote of dissension came from board member Bill Heath, who had raised concerns on several occasions last year about the California Healthy Youth Act and the potential LUSD curricula. The course materials that were approved Tuesday were recommended to the board at its Dec. 11 meeting by a task force comprised of district administrators that had hosted several community and staff forums in late 2018.
“I understand the state has laws, (but) I have personal convictions, as do other people that have great concerns about what’s being taught to our children,” Heath said Tuesday.
Heath went on to read a statement from another source that emphasized the importance of educators protecting students.
“I see both sides of this,” he said. “I am very convicted that there’s a lot of indoctrination of things that are harmful to children in this curriculum. I realize it’s been recommended by the state. I appreciate all the work that went in (to developing the recommendation), and by no means do I mean to undermine or disrespect all the work that’s been going on, but for me it’s a violation of my beliefs, my religion; it’s offensive to me and I know it’s offensive to others.”
Board member Dick Barrett responded to Heath’s comments by pointing out that he had attended several of the public forums on the issue and said the feedback he received at those meetings indicated that the recommended materials were in the best interest of the community.
“I listened to all the parents and I listened to the pros and cons and this and that,” Barrett said. “My first reaction is that it’d be nice to let us run our school district without the state saying we have to do it this way. We already have a sex-ed program in place and the teachers that have been teaching this … have been doing it a number of years, and their recommendation is what is asked for tonight. This is the program they chose, as well as the people that helped recommend it to us.”
Parents and guardians will be able to opt their children out of the classes if they desire.
Much of the controversy that arose when the topic was first brought up four months ago stemmed from a perception from some parents and community members that the materials that satisfy the state mandate were not age-appropriate and/or were too explicit in their coverage of topics like safe sex, masturbation, LGBTQ lifestyles and references to gender identity and sexual orientation fluidity.
It was after that uproar that began in September that LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald assembled the task force and scheduled 10 community forums, as well as staff sessions, to offer interested parties an opportunity to share their concerns and weigh in on the matter.
The “Teen Talk” curriculum for middle school students is geared for 12- to 14-year-olds and intended to be delivered over two weeks, according to Health Connected, its developer.
Core components, according to Health Connected, include that it supports clarification of values about gender roles, relationships and sexuality; provides information about where to obtain reproductive health care; encourages parent and trusted adult communication; incorporates multiday parent/trusted adult interview homework assignments for students; and utilizes gender inclusive language.
The “3 Rs” curriculum for high school students was developed by Advocates for Youth, an organization that, according to its website, “partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth.”
The next regular meeting of the LUSD board of education is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the Education Center Board Room, 1301 North A St.