California School District’s Sex Education Policy May Violate State Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Act
The board of trustees for the Westminster School District in Westminster, Calif., on Thursday is expected to meet to discuss the school district's sex education policy, which some lawmakers say violates the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 5/5). The state law (SB 71), which went into effect in January, ensures that students who receive sex education in schools obtain accurate information on abstinence, human sexuality, contraception, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in an age-appropriate manner. According to state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D), who sponsored the bill, the law requires schools that teach sex education or HIV prevention classes to send notices to parents at the start of the school year informing them of the dates students are scheduled to take sex education or HIV/AIDS prevention classes and whether they are scheduled to participate in sexual behavior surveys. Parents who do not want their children participating in the classes or surveys can return the notification form indicating their preference. If the notification form is not returned, parental consent for all classes or surveys is assumed (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/6/03). However, Westminster School District since 1999 has had a policy of keeping students out of sex education classes unless parents specifically opt to include their children. Trustee Judy Ahrens said she called Thursday's meeting to ensure that the school district would not abandon its policy, according to the Times. Kuehl said that such an "opt-in" policy would violate the law, the Times reports. "It was the intent of the law to have all districts adopt an 'opt-out' policy," Kuehl said, adding, "There is no authority in the statute to permit this." Marsha Bedwall, the chief lawyer for the California Department of Education, said that her staff is trying to decide whether Westminster's policy complies with the law, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 5/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.