A coalition of groups have brought a lawsuit against the Clovis Unified School District in California, claiming their abstinence-only sex education program violates state law.
The lawsuit alleges the textbook used by the district informs high school students that respecting themselves, getting plenty of rest, going out as a group and practicing abstinence can prevent them from catching sexually transmitted diseases. The textbook, however, does not mention that condoms can prevent the spread of STDs.
Other instructional materials compare a woman who is not a virgin to a dirty shoe and suggest that men are unable to stop themselves once they become sexually aroused, according to the lawsuit.
Two parents in the district, the American Academy of Pediatrics California District IX, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network filed suit against the school district. They are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.
“Young people, experts, and legislators have agreed that schools must provide comprehensive and relevant sex ed in order to keep California’s students healthy,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “By ignoring the law, Clovis schools put all students at risk and particularly harm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, who need unbiased information to make healthy decisions.”
Under California law, public schools’ sex education programs must be comprehensive, medically accurate, bias-free, and appropriate for students of all sexual orientations.
Spokeswoman Kelly Avants told the Los Angeles Times that Clovis Unified was in compliance with state law by promoting abstinence as “the only 100 percent surefire way to prevent pregnancy.” She refused to comment on the issue of condoms and contraception.
“Our kids need complete, accurate information to help them protect themselves against STDs and unintended pregnancy. That’s information they’ll need at whatever point in their life they become sexually active,” said Aubree Smith, a plaintiff in the suit and mother of a 17-year-old daughter at Clovis High School.
A 2007 federal study indicated that abstinence-only education ultimately had “no impacts ” at all on rates of sexual abstinence. States with sex ed and health classes that stress “abstinence-only” education rank the highest in the numbers of underage pregnancies.
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