Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees on March 17 would have undoubtedly voted to pass the the very controversial Teen Talk Middle School sexuality and sexual health curriculum for district seventh- and eighth-grade students.
According to a report by Dr. Anne Roundy-Harter, the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s secondary education director, presented to the school board on Feb. 11, a mere 27 people responded. Oddly, the school district has a proud, diverse population, especially with the Hispanic community, which was larmingly absent and unrepresented in Roundy-Harter’s report. Teen Talk is not offered in Spanish except for a few worksheets.
Results of Roundy-Harter’s report were based on 17 responses from P.E. and high school health teachers, 16 responses from parents of junior high school students and nine responses from community members. This is woefully inadequate to say the least, with Roundy-Harter making recommendations for about 14,000 students districtwide!
However, in less than one week, 300 parents and community members filled the school district’s board meeting room on Feb. 25 to reject Teen Talk and to offer an alternative state-approved curriculum called HEART: Healthy Education and Relationship Training. The parents asked for a public forum to review BOTH curricula side by side, but it has not happened.
In fact, the author of the HEART curriculum, R. “Skip” Hellewell, has reached out directly to the Santa Barbara school board and to Roundy-Harter, who is directly responsible for making recommendations to the board. Hellewell offered his time and an opportunity to Roundy-Harter to review the HEART curriculum, to talk extensively about it and to hold a community forum.
Unfortunately, those 300 parents and community members who showed up to the Feb. 25 board meeting to oppose Teen Talk were viewed as “closed-minded Christians” and as not wanting the students to have Sex Ed or to be informed as how to best take care of themselves.
No, we want Sex Ed for the students, but you don’t have to be a Christian to see that Teen Talk is too sexually explicit, liberally progressive, offensive to some students, and pushes an agenda on all students. We want Sex Ed for our students, but we disagree with the materials in Teen Talk.
Furthermore, parents are responsible for their children. According to California Education Code Section 51937 states, “… parents and guardians have the ultimate responsibility for imparting values regarding human sexuality to their children.”
The HEART curriculum meets all state requirements and addresses all the issues of sex education, HIV protection, STDs and making informed decisions. It includes parent interviews, honoring of oneself, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender ideology, negative stereotypes, pornography, sexting, legal age of consent, sex trafficking, negotiating skills and much more.
The HEART curriculum does not have a political or ideological objective, and it PROTECTS ALL students from intrusions and injustices.
The Santa Barbara Unified School District is not the only school district in California, or the nation, grappling with these issues right now. The Orange Unified School District in Orange County rejected the Teen Talk curriculum due to “community opposition and controversy over medical inaccuracy.”
According to The Orange County Register, “Concerning medical accuracy, a CHOC (Children’s Hospital of Orange County) pediatrician attended the meeting and stated: ‘In reviewing Teen Talk, students are not being told medically accurate statistics regarding the effectiveness of condom use in anal sex. They are not being told the truth that anal sex is the highest risk behavior for transmission of HIV and other STDs, especially since condoms are not FDA approved for anal sex.’”
The article further states, “ Education Code 60002 says, each district board … shall promote the involvement of parents … in the selection of instructional materials.”
In 2015, the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools adopted a “gender ideology policy” in two weeks without parent notification. Teen Talk embraces gender ideology.
Lawsuits are currently pending over the Fairfax County policy, and the school district’s example should be a warning to all school districts and school boards on what NOT to do.
As Fairfax County attests, it was a “race to embrace” policy. No scoping of the issues, no community engagement, no data-driven discussion, no consultant reports. Parents on both side of the issue are STILL unsatisfied five years later.
To this day, students on both sides of the issue do not feel safe when biological males who “identify as female” use the same restrooms, locker rooms, athletic teams, overnight trips and hotel rooms. The Fairfax County Public Schools say that “changes of this magnitude” usually take 12-18 months.
The Santa Barbara Unified School District board is heading down the very same path, in a hurry to get a Sex Ed curriculum adopted in sharp opposition to parents and community. The board has not throughly scoped out the nature, impacts and accompanying issues of such a monumental decision encompassing 14,000 students, not to mention parents, families, more modest cultures (Hispanic), teachers, administrators and facilities.
Why doesn’t the school board want to accept the wishes of parents and review the HEART curriculum? Why is the school district not protecting ALL STUDENTS and families?
As adults, we all know that teenage years are a very impactful season of life and very short lived. Why not protect ALL students by offering a Sex Ed curriculum that is nonoffensive while meeting state standards? Kids don’t need adults teaching and encouraging a curriculum that is offensive to even ONE student because, rest assured, Teen Talk is very offensive to many students, parents and community members.
Yes, if not for our current situation of sheltering in place and dealing with the coronavirus, Teen Talk certainly would have been a “slam dunk!” For now, students are at home with their families. In this time of “pause,” I would implore all people in authority over their families and communities to write letters to the various news outlets, to the Santa Barbara Unified School District board and to Stand Up For All Students!
Let’s hope and pray that a favorable and unoffensive curriculum can be voted on for ALL students and families!
— Longtime Santa Barbara resident Peggy Wilson is a wife, mother, grandmother and avid student of American history and the Constitution. The opinions expressed are her own.