Why We Aren't Fans of the OPT OUT Provision

We are concerned that many parents will learn enough about Comprehensive Sexuality Education to simply throw up their hands and declare, "I'm just going to opt my kids out!", and this is where their involvement will end.  Unfortunately, this issue isn't just about what our kids are going to learn at school. 

Curricula like Teen Talk (and others linked to through the CDE website) foster a climate of division within our schools -- a climate that is not only unfortunate, but potentially unsafe for our youth.  The following letter to the CUSD Trustees, is shared with permission by the author, although their name has been withheld:

Dear Trustees,

I want to thank you for being so responsive to my inquiries regarding the proposed Teen Talk curriculum. I have approached this with an open mind and found areas of the curriculum that are acceptable – even good – including, for example, portions that encourage more open lines of communication between parents and children. 

However, as I have continued to immerse myself in the proposed curriculum over the last two weeks, I have found much that is highly objectionable. Clearly, much of this curriculum is based on personal opinion, rather than any verifiable fact. It obviously reflects the opinions and agendas of its principal promoters, which include controversial organizations like the ACLU and Planned parenthood (see, e.g., https://www.aclunc.org/docs/201703-lgbtq_gender_checklist.pdf).  Because they are ostensibly non-religious organizations, their opinions are somehow treated as valid and worthy of inclusion, while any countervailing voices — most (but not all) of which spring from religious opinion and belief — are reflexively set aside simply because of that assumed source. 

Organizations like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood (and NOW, which promoted the dress code agenda that was thankfully rejected by the Board) count on the intentional marginalization of religious-based opinion to quell all opposition to their secular agendas. They are entitled to their opinions.  But so are the rest of us, regardless of the source of those opinions, and all points of view deserve a place on the stage of public debate. Moreover, the relegation of our fellow citizens and their closely-held beliefs to irrelevance, merely because those beliefs happen to be consistent with faith traditions, is not only a non-sequitur, but a direct affront to the foundational religious freedoms that our country holds dear.

There are a number of moral — and by that very definition opinion-based rather than fact-based — issues discussed in this curriculum that are in direct opposition to the views of a large swath of the electorate you represent.  I offer two examples, although there are more:

The topic of GENDER

Gender is presented as if the sex “assigned” at birth is some sort of place card holder, to be later determined when one is old enough to choose. No scientific evidence is offered for this assertion, and even if it were, existing sociological and scientific studies could (and should) be cited to counter it.  I’m not suggesting that we teach my view at school.  But, I am suggesting that we not teach the other one as if it is fact.   

For example, under the heading, “Why is This Important?” in Session II of Teen Talk, we find:

Although these diagrams depict typical male and female anatomy, it is important to recognize that not all bodies look the same, and there is significant diversity in human sexual anatomy. It is also important to remind students that some men have female anatomy and some women have male anatomy — this is the difference between gender (a feeling/identity) and sex (the physical body).

Geneticists have long known that the first half of the underlined statement is true: there have been documented cases of individuals who experience hermaphroditism, having both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics. However, the failure to note this as an extremely rare genetic disorder, coupled with attempted redefinition of gender as a choice, reflects an intellectual dishonesty that has no place in any curriculum, especially in one being taught to children in CUSD. 

The topic of HOMOPHOBIA

In addition, in Session III of Teen Talk we see how easy it is for a person who has a different view, and those around them, to be made to feel like that view (and by implication that person) is homophobic and hateful.  Differences of opinion do not equal hate – but again, a classic non-sequitur is being pushed relentlessly by those who refuse to tolerate any opposing viewpoint. For example, found within the same Session II we read this:

This session establishes a common understanding and language of sexual orientation and gender identity. This topic is presented early on in Teen Talk MS to establish a foundation of understanding of these topics throughout the rest of the course. Sexual identity and sexual orientation can be uncomfortable topics for some high school students to discuss, perhaps because of their personal values or understanding of what specific terms mean. As a result, some students might make homophobic comments or actions. Remind students that homophobia of any kind will NOT be tolerated in your classroom. Remind students of the agreements from Session 1, which help to create a safe and respectful space for all students to learn.

Laying aside for a moment the fact that there is NOT a “common understanding and language of sexual orientation and identity” – that’s a big part of the debate – please consider this: By presenting any opposition as homophobic (by definition, “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something"), not only are proponents of gender fluidity attempting to silence valid debate on this issue, but they are unfairly demonizing others. The truth is that the majority of those who hold traditional views of gender also hold other traditional views, such as love for neighbor and tolerance of differences. Painting them as haters – especially when the accused are parents and the accusers are teachers whom those parents are trying to teach their children to respect and listen to – stands reason on its head. This is the opposite of what our classrooms are supposed to be!

Our children (and their parents and community) deserve better. Our children should never be taught that if they have another view (or believe a different set of facts or data), then they (or their parents, or pastors or friends) are hateful, homophobic people. It is axiomatic that people can disagree without disliking each other, and without denying another’s right to live as they choose. 

Moreover, the psychosocial and societal effects on those who unwittingly accept the false notion that those who disagree with them – on this or any other subject – are highly detrimental as well, unfairly leaving them to believe incorrectly that they are surrounded by haters and enemies on every side, and driving wedges between people who might otherwise easily be friends. 

The Teen Talk authors’ goals are pretty clear to me. And this scares me — not because I worry that my children and grandchildren are going to be exposed to misinformation in their classrooms. I know that my family can “opt out” — at least for the present.  Furthermore, I still have the right to teach my children according to my own values.  My real concern here is that the children who do not opt out will develop a genuine antipathy toward people like my children, who simply have a different view about sexuality, sex, and the importance of gender. Like me, the people I know who share my views on these issues are carefully teaching their children to be accepting of, respectful toward and kind to all. My children deserve the same consideration. Teen Talk’s institutionalized attack on my children’s values does the exact opposite. CUSD and its educators should not take part in such attacks. 

So, I’m not sure what the solution is. But I appreciate the fact that you have taken on the responsibility to find and craft common-sense solutions to this and many other issues, which meet the needs and reflect the values of our diverse community, for us. We understand that there is a state mandate involved and the Board has to do something, but I believe I speak for many parents and voters who would strongly encourage you to find a better source than the one proposed. 



Legal Opinions Regarding a Parent's Right to Opt-Out

The following memo from the desk of Ron Wenkart, General Council to the OC Board of Education, explains one legal opinion regarding a parent's right to opt out. Essentially, he says that parents may opt their children out of almost every lesson.  But, there are a few subjects our legislators have determined all youth must learn and from which they may not opt out. The philosophy of gender fluidity is just one of those subjects.

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Many other law firms have supported an opposite interpretation of the law.  Dean R. Broyles, Esq, President and Chief Counsel of The National Center for Law and Policy, offered a response to Ron Wenkart's legal memo:

I have reviewed Ronald D. Wenkart’s (Gen. Counsel, O.C. Dept. of Educ.) letter dated August 29, 2017 (attached), which [was] forwarded to me on January 3, 2017. Simply put, his legal opinion is incorrect that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction” (hereinafter SOGI). His is a misreading and misapplication of the law.

Yes, state law (Ed. Code section 51932(b)) carves out these SOGI areas (when not explicitly discussed in sex ed. class, i.e. with “body parts”), however, this does not mean that a local school board, out of respect for parents, may not exercise its discretion to provide an opt out policy for parents. In other words, just because the law doesn’t require an opt out, doesn’t mean a district can’t provide an opt out. [That] is my legal opinion, as well as the interpretation of ADF attorneys.

It seems that for now, the best thing to do is to contact local school boards for clarity on how they plan to enforce this confusing legislation. 

But, even if parents are ultimately given permission to opt their child out of an entire middle school CSE course (including lessons on gender fluidity), the law allows this gender instruction to begin as early as kindergarten.  And, where this instruction is not connected to a CSE course, a parent is currently not allowed to opt out.  So, this isn't just a question of whether or not we can opt our children out of a CSE curricula to which we are opposed -- one that teaches philosophies with which we disagree (although that is an issue); but, it's a question of whether this philosophy should be allowed to be taught at school at all.

Fortunately, some of our legislators are working to amend the language in the California Healthy Youth Act, to make a parent’s right to opt-out fully comprehensive. But, the fact remains that the California Department of Education encourages the introduction of gender fluidity philosophy to our children from the time they enter the public school system.  (Synopsis of CHYA)