Will California’s Progressive Sex Education Work?

The future of sex ed is starting in California, but not without plenty of conservative pushback

Sex Ed
California's CHYA is giving sex ed a much-needed update.
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

California is leading the nation in the push toward more inclusive sex education for teens, but even in one of the country’s bluest states, progressive sex education is a source of controversy.

As Anna North noted in a recent Vox article detailing California’s growing sex ed. movement, the state wants to lead America into the future of sex ed. for teens and students. In 2016, California implemented the California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA), which requires comprehensive sex education including information on HIV and pregnancy prevention, healthy relationships, gender identity and more for both middle and high school students.

California has been at the forefront of progressive sex ed for some time. CHYA follows an earlier law from 2003 that required HIV prevention to be taught in public schools, as well as sex education “appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities.”

Since CHYA, school districts throughout the state have begun updating their sex ed curriculum, often bringing in outside programs led by groups like Planned Parenthood and Girls Inc.

However, not all Californians support the state’s progressive sex ed initiative. Even in a traditionally blue state that has historically found itself at the forefront of various progressive movements, (including loosening abortion restrictions and legalizing medical marijuana use) conservative parents are pushing back against inclusive sex ed.

According to North, much of the conservative pushback is concentrated in Anaheim, where concerned parents actually participate in picket-style “Sex Ed Sit Outs” in protest against CHYA. Parents cite various reasons for their dissent, from religious principles to the belief that such education “should be done in the privacy of your home,” as one parent told North. Overwhelmingly, however, it become apparent that the majority of the conservative pushback, as North noted, has its roots in an aversion to LGBTQ inclusivity.

“It’s not about hate or disliking or anything like that,” the same parent told North. “It’s about my parental rights and what I want to teach my child.”

Fortunately, the new era of sex ed is finally here, and it’s done catering to “parental rights.”

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