FREMONT (CBS SF) — Parents lined up for hours to attend a meeting on sex education changes at the Fremont Unified School District Wednesday, which would include elementary school curriculum more explicit than students and parents are used to.
The district was scheduled to vote on whether to make changes to a sexual education program that begins in the fourth grade.
The changes are in compliance with the California Healthy Youth Act, a statewide bill that voters approved in 2015.
The topic has been the source of contentious debate as parents, students and teachers determine how much children should know about sexuality, puberty and sexual health-related topics.
Many parents are against their fourth, fifth and six graders being exposed to lessons on reproduction, sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual assault.
At the heart of the controversy is a sex ed program known as 3R, which stands for rights, respect and responsibility.
Some parents were shocked by a book listed in a supplemental reading list called “It’s Perfectly Normal.”
The book, for ages 10 and older, shows full color illustrations of people masturbating and having sex; some images too graphic even to show on TV.
The book has been banned in other school districts around the country.
“I want to make it very, very clear. We are for sex education but only with the appropriate curriculum at the right age,” said fourth grade parent Helen Long.
Unlike many school districts that wait until middle school, Fremont has been teaching sex education as young as fourth grade for years. But now, the district must comply with the new state law.
“Since we have been teaching it, we have to bring up the components of that law that bring up sexual orientation, gender identify, sex trafficking and many other subjects that many people feel should be for an older group,” said school Superintendent Dr. Kim Wallace.
One supporter of the curriculum says kids at that age already have sexual awareness and questions.
“At that age, I knew I wasn’t straight. My friend knew he wasn’t the girl everyone thought he was,” said Leo MacPherson. “I think it’s important that people at that young age know it’s valid, that it’s not something to be ashamed or afraid of.”
If the changes are approved, they will affect programs in 28 schools in the district.
They may have been heard, but the last word will be up to the board.
Under state law, parents can opt out and their children will be taught other curriculum.
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