Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Elementary School
will my child be taught about sex in elementary school?
According to the California Healthy Youth Act (“CHYA,” formerly know as AB329), “(1) Existing law, the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act, authorizes school districts to provide comprehensive sexual health education, consisting of age-appropriate instruction, in any of kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive . . .” (bold added).
So, the answer is, maybe. Under CHYA school districts have latitude to adopt curricula that address sex and gender issues as young as kindergarten, and many districts are pressured by special interest groups to do so. If you’re not sure what your district has included in their curricula for lower grades, you should ask to see it. You should also be aware that CHYA allows teachers to discuss these issues in the classroom regardless of whether they are included in an official district curriculum. You should know your child’s teacher and be aware of what’s being taught in the classroom.
What MIGHT my child be taught? What is authorized?
The California Department of Education Health Frameworks have been promulgated to assist districts and teachers in implementing CHYA. See the excerpts from the Frameworks below.
Gender is taught as being fluid, not binary.
Quotes from Frameworks:
“When providing instruction on sexual and reproductive organs, teachers can introduce the concept that gender does not always match the sexual and reproductive organs described. For example, teachers may share, ‘In the classroom, we may use the term “female reproductive organs” but some people who identify as male have these organs. The actual anatomical name for organs is utilized.’”
“While students may not fully understand the concepts of gender expression and identity, some children in kindergarten and even younger have identified as transgender or understand they have a gender identity that is different from their sex assigned at birth.”
“Members of the community who defy traditional stereotypes (e.g., women firefighters, male nurses, and stay-at-home fathers/guardians/caretakers) could be invited as guest speakers to share about their jobs and to serve as role models and myth busters. Be sure to include individuals of all genders, including people who are transgender.”
Frameworks’ suggested books:
Changing You!: A Guide to Body Changes and Sexuality (2009), by Gail Saltz
It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends, (2008) by Robie Harris
Who Are You?: The Kids Guide to Gender Identity, by Brook Pessin‐Whedbee (2017)
Quotes from the Frameworks:
“When the topic of masturbation is introduced or arises, teachers explain what masturbation is and that it is safe and not mentally or physically harmful. This is also an important time to discuss gender, gender roles, and gender expression as puberty can be a difficult time for all students. Educators should acknowledge this and create an environment that is inclusive and challenges binary concepts about gender.”
“Fifth-grade students will have an opportunity to learn that gender is not strictly defined by physical anatomy or sex assigned at birth. Rather, students understand that gender refers to attitudes, feelings, characteristics, and behaviors that a given culture associates with being male or female, sometimes labeled ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine.’ Moreover, a person’s gender identity refers to their sense of self, while gender expression refers to their outward gender presentation including physical appearance and behaviors.”
“Teachers should be mindful of personal biases and use gender neutral language when discussing peer and romantic relationships to be inclusive of all students in terms of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual attraction. For example, use ‘they’ instead of using ‘he/she.’”
“Some teachers may prefer to separate students by gender during sexual health education, this is not recommended. Receiving puberty and sexual health education separately can foster anxiety and misinformation between genders and allow for some students to be misgendered, or placed in a group that does not reflect their gender identity.”
“Instruction on sexual health content must affirm diverse sexual orientations and include examples of same-sex relationships when discussing relationships.”
Frameworks’ suggested books:
George, by Alex Gino (2015)
Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up, (2014) by Jacqui Bailey
Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg (2015)