Debate Roils Bay Area Community Fremont parents protest the city's sex education policy and curriculum on March 14, Click here to subscribe. The teaching of sex ed in fourth through sixth grades has been eliminated in the city of Fremont after months of controversy over a proposed new curriculum to comply with state law.
Controversial content included addressing the emotional aspects of sex and sexual activity; the possibility that as adults, people may have more than one sexual partner; and inclusive LGBTQ lessons, like on transgender individuals and gender fluidity.
Up until the vote, sex ed had been taught in Fremont schools to fifth and sixth graders since the s, and to fourth graders since The board approved the update to sex ed in seventh through ninth grades — which they were essentially required to do to comply with the California Healthy Youth Act. Amid the dispute, some opponents and supporters have lodged accusations of racism, homophobia and transphobia.
Following the vote , the school board said it would convene a panel of parents and experts to try to reach a consensus on a sex ed curriculum that respects the beliefs of parents and adheres to state standards for next year.
Ro Khanna, decried the decision. The curriculum includes instruction on same-sex relationships and different gender identities, with additional lessons on consent and sexual assault. The law makes sexual education a requirement starting in seventh grade. When sex ed is taught at earlier ages, the law requires those lessons follow state guidelines. That's what Fremont Unified did when they drafted the new lesson plans for fourth through sixth grade, said Denise Herrmann, associate superintendent of instruction.
School board members had appeared divided over the issue, too, with some seeming to lean toward supporting parental control and others stressing the need for comprehensive sex ed.
Many of the board members expressed hope they could find a viable compromise, but as tensions had flared, that had seemed less and less likely. Other Bay Area school districts have had challenges implementing the new law, too: Last year, the nearby Cupertino Union School District backed off of making a similar update to its curriculum after a debate like the one in Fremont erupted. Parents and students at a Fremont school board meeting debating sex ed on Wednesday, May 2, His son, who is in fifth grade, was too young for these explicit details, he said.
In fifth grade, they actually talk about if the male and female have sexual intercourse then the penis is inserted into the vagina. Because you think that you can opt out and protect your child, and raise her up in a more traditional and conservative way.
Pallavi Somusetty, who grew up attending Fremont public schools, said she wishes she had sex ed instruction earlier and she wants it for her children. Lessons about consent, included in the new curriculum, came far too late for her best friend, who she said was sexually abused by a South Asian Fremont man in the s. Has Racism Entered the Debate? The large majority of parents protesting the new sex ed curriculum were South Asian-American or Chinese-American. As a Chinese immigrant, she said she felt it was a direct attack against her.
She thinks racism has taken over the debate, and singled out South Asian-American and Chinese-American parents. Parents like Annie He said they weren't opposed to sex education. But they fear this curriculum teaches kids too much, too soon. Sameer Jha , 16, joined the board meetings with his mom to back inclusive sex ed instruction.
Jha said he was bullied constantly in elementary and middle school in Fremont for being feminine and for acting and looking different. It wasn't until after he left Fremont Unified, and started to commute to a private high school in Oakland, that he could come out to his parents and friends as queer. As a Pakistani immigrant, she said she had to learn what it meant to be queer. He said lessons like this may have prevented his being bullied.
Parent Taft Ding said he worried about language in the curriculum telling fourth graders they get to decide who they are -- echoing the concerns some parents had about lessons on transgender identity.
When asked about this objection to the curriculum, Anthony Prickett, a former Fremont student who has returned to support the sex ed update said, "That is how queer people have sex. A representative from The Pacific Justice Institute PJI , which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-gay rhetoric and support of gay conversion therapy, has joined some of the school board meetings PJI President Brad Dacus said his group got involved when a parent reached out to them with concerns over the new curriculum.
PJI has previously weighed in on various school debates in the Bay Area: It took credit for convincing the Cupertino Union School District to hold off on their sex ed curriculum update last year. And, in Alameda County in , PJI fought against anti-bullying lessons in school, lessons they refer to on their website as part of a " pro-homosexual" curriculum. In , some parents protested over the creation of a Harvey Milk Day.
Cal Jones Larisch, an 18 year old who identifies as a non-binary transgender person, has been coming to Fremont school board meetings since they were young.
It would teach them to have sex. She described her daughter as always wanting to try the experiments she learns in science class at home.