Palo Alto Unified School District's (PAUSD) Comprehensive Sexual Health Education program is designed to encourage students to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender roles, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family (EC 51930). Per California law, PAUSD and all California public school districts, shall ensure that all students in grades 7 to 12, inclusive, receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV/AIDS prevention education. Each student shall receive this instruction at least once in junior high or middle school and at least once in high school (EC 51934 (a)).
If you have any questions, please contact Health Services at (650)833-4240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A: The California Healthy Youth Act (California Education Code Sections 51930-51939), which was approved in October of 2015 and took effect in January of 2016, requires all California school districts to provide comprehensive sexuality education at least once in middle school and at least once in high school.
A: The California Healthy Youth Act reinforces a focus on having healthy attitudes, behaviors, and relationships. In addition to HIV/AIDS prevention education, this law expands the requirement to include the teaching of all modes of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and addressing all gender identities and orientations.
Specifically, the law (California Ed. Code 51930) addresses the teaching of the following:
- To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect their sexual and reproductive health from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and from unintended pregnancy.
- To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family.
- To promote understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development.
- To ensure pupils receive integrated, comprehensive, accurate, and unbiased sexual health and HIV prevention instruction and provide educators with clear tools and guidance to accomplish that end.
- To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to have healthy, positive, and safe relationships and behaviors.
A: The Adolescent Sexual Health Work Group (ASHWG), which is comprised of program managers from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), California Department of Education (CDE), and key non-governmental organizations, reviews sexual health education programs for age appropriateness and medically accuracy.
California Education Code 51931, defines “age appropriateness” and “medically accuracy” as:
“Age appropriate” refers to topics, messages, and teaching methods suitable to particular ages or age groups of children and adolescents, based on developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capacity typical for the age or age group.
“Medically accurate” means verified or supported by research conducted in compliance with scientific methods and published in peer-reviewed journals, where appropriate, and recognized as accurate and objective by professional organizations and agencies with expertise in the relevant field, such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
A: PAUSD uses the Health Connected supplemental materials in grade 5 (Puberty Talk), grade 7 (Teen Talk Middle School), and high school (Teen Talk High School). 5th grade instruction is led by Health Connected educators. In 7th grade, 1st year teachers to the Health Connected lessons will have Health Connected educators delivering materials. 2nd year and above teachers will deliver the Health Connected materials to their own classrooms. In High School, Health Connected materials are incorporated into the Living Skills class and is taught by the PAUSD teachers.
A: PAUSD has contracted with Health Connected, a Bay Area based non-profit organization that has a long history with many school districts in our state. This agency has provided long term support to PAUSD living skills classes at the high school level and has also trained district nurses. Selecting Health Connected to provide elementary (grade 5) and middle school (grade 7) sexual health information allows for K-12 alignment in the district and continuity for students and families. While PAUSD has taught health standards using a variety of supplemental resources for more than 15 years, the Health Connected resources are a response to the mandated topics required by the California Healthy Youth Act (California Education Code Sections 51930-51939) and ensure consistency of information to all students. PAUSD uses the Health Connected materials in grade 5 (Puberty Talk), grade 7 (Teen Talk), and high school (Teen Talk High School).
A: Health Connected’s curricula has gone through a rigorous review process. The Teen Talk Middle School and Teen Talk High School curricula were both reviewed by the Adolescent Sexual Health Work Group (ASHWG). Health Connected also partnered with physicians at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) to complete a medical review of each curricula before they are published. Lastly, Health Connected’s curricula were evaluated by the California Healthy Kids Resource Center’s Material Review Board process and determined to be of high quality.
You can find the curriculum review for Health Connected here: http://www.health-connected.org/curriculum-review
PAUSD school principals and chief academic officers reviewed requirements of the new law and the materials Health Connected had developed to meet the school district’s legal obligations to student sexual health information. The content was fully vetted by PAUSD school principals and chief academic officers.
A: The following public health topics are components of the Health Connected Teen Talk for seventh graders:
- Decision-making and values clarification
- Communicating with parents
- Healthy relationships and peer and partner communication
- Access and rights to health care
- Definitions of sex/abstinence
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Consent, sexual safety, and the law
- Sexual identity and gender identity
- Birth control
- Sex and sexuality in the media
- Reproductive anatomy
A: Each school year, the curriculum is available for viewing by parents at school sites during office hours prior to the beginning of instruction. Materials are also available from 8:00 am - 4:45 pm at the District Office in Educational Services. Further details about viewing materials will be included in correspondence from each school to parents.
A: In addition to Health Connected's own program internal evaluation, PAUSD will be extending the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) to include the optional module of sexual health in order to monitor student behavior and attitude.
A: California state law allows you to remove your student from all or part of any sexual health education provided. You may also excuse your student from any assessments given by the district. If you DO NOT want you student to participate in the comprehensive sexual health education lessons or assessments, please send a written note to your schools’ front office or student’s teacher.
A: No, you cannot selectively opt out your student from the LGBTQ-related content while remaining in the classroom for other sexual health instruction. Permitting parental opt-out that targets LGBTQ-related lessons would make it impossible for a school to fulfill its mandate of correcting hostile environments and would instead promote, allow, and facilitate discrimination in violation of both state and federal law. Parents/guardians may, of course, choose to remove their students from comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention instruction in its entirety, including the LGBTQ-focused content.
For more information on LGBTQ-inclusivity requirements, please see the CALIFORNIA HEALTHY YOUTH ACT IMPLEMENTATION TOOLKIT LGBTQ-Inclusivity Requirements and How They Interact with Parental Opt-Out from the ACLU.