SEX ED: New State Law Sets Standardized Criteria
A new California law in effect Jan. 1, 2000, requires that schools teaching sex education must use standardized information that is medically accurate and free of gender, racial or ethnic bias. In the past, California schools have "run the gamut when it comes to how they deal with the topic of sex, from avoiding the subject to getting specific about contraception, diseases and pregnancy," the Sacramento Bee reports. Chris Berry, an HIV program consultant for the state Department of Education, said, "The more information kids have about reproductive health, the more equipped they will be in making good decisions." Berry stated that the new law could be a way to prevent schools from using "scare tactics" to prevent teens from having sex. While state law does not require sex ed curriculum, 87% of California school districts teach some form of sex education, according to The Get Real About Teen Pregnancy Campaign. California schools that offer sex ed courses are supposed to "provide a comprehensive education" rooted in promoting abstinence, according to Berry. The curriculum also should include information about contraception and STDs. The law is a welcomed initiative, because "teachers often have to deal with confusing local policies and myths about what is required or allowed," Norm Constantine, a research psychologist and director of School and Community Health Research in San Francisco, said. Constantine added, "For the most part, sexuality education in California is not comprehensive. It is typically piecemeal, sometimes inaccurate, usually incomplete." According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, California ranks second to Nevada in having the highest teen pregnancy rate nationwide. In 1996, the estimated rate for the state was 125 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 (Crump, 1/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.