Last Wednesday was the third time this year parents with Informed Parents of California (IPOC) traveled to Sacramento to protest the pornographic, immoral, and age inappropriate content within proposed Department of Education K-12 health curriculum guidelines. But no matter what adjectives they used to describe the sexual debauchery being promoted, their complaints were largely dismissed by education officials. That was until IPOC changed their tactics, with media help from the California Family Council.
For their final capitol rally on May 8, the day the State Board of Education planned to approve the new guidelines, IPOC parents decided to read and show pictures of the books the framework promoted and endorsed, instead of just describing them. In their press release to the media, written and promoted by CFC’s Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt, they focused on four graphic, over-the-top books recommended by the Health Education Framework.
These textbooks included telling kindergartners they could be two genders at once or no gender at all; showing third graders large and close up illustrated pictures of the sex act; introducing fourth graders to sexual fantasies, masturbation, and slang words for sexual organs; and presenting high schoolers with a detailed how-to sex manual that included instructions on anal sex for all sexual orientations, BDSM (bondage, domination, sadomasochism), body fluid (urinating on each other) or blood play, and fisting.
In press interviews before the rally and the morning of the rally, parents read and showed reporters pages from these books. After IPOC held their 9 a.m. rally with over 300 parents at the Capitol State Park, participants walked across the street and lined up to speak before the State Board of Education, who planned to approve the Health Education Framework that afternoon. Many of parents used their 60 second testimonies to read straight from these graphic books.
That strategy worked. All the publicity on these books was too much for Department of Education and State Board of Education to take. By the afternoon the Department of Education was calling for the books to be removed from the framework, along with another book about cross dressing for kindergartners. Officials came up with various excuses for their decision.
“It’s important to know the board is not trying to ban books. We’re not saying that the books are bad,” California State Board of Education member Feliza I. Ortiz-Licon told the Associated Press. “But the removal will help avoid the misunderstanding that California is mandating the use of these books.”
David Sapp, the deputy policy director for the State Board of Education explained the books had become a “distraction.” “The goal is that the curriculum framework be useful,” Sapp told KCRA 3 NBC News in Sacramento.
Then Stephanie Gregson, director of the California Department of Education’s curriculum frameworks and instructional resources division, reportedly told news outlets that the books they removed were not intended for students themselves, but for teachers as resources when kids ask sex questions. This assertion is false.
According to the framework itself, many of the books were intended to be read to students by teachers or promoted to students by the school. For example, the framework suggested schools “promote a school-wide read” of “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties,” which includes sexual behavior suitable for an adult book store. The framework also instructs teachers to read “Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up” to “initiate dialog,” about sex and masturbation with 4-6 grade students.
In the end, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the Health Education Framework, but removed the four books IPOC parents embarrassed the State Board of Education with. This small victory, was overshadowed by new guidelines textbook publishers will use over the next decade to create curriculum just like the books the board removed. And despite the removal of some of the offensive books, the framework still includes recommended books with similar content. Here are a few examples:
- Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up (2014) by Jacqui Bailey. This book is for 4-6 graders provides instructions on how to masturbate, teaching on erogenous zones and how kids who french kiss also touch each other’s genitals.
- 2. It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends (2008) by Robie Harris The framework encourages teachers to have their first grade students “write short reports” about this book, which introduces kids to the clitoris in print and in pictures, as well as details descriptions of sex.
- 3. Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg (2015). The framework says this 4-6 grade book can be used by teachers to “initiate dialogue for the group chats.” This book covers how great masturbation feels and what it means to be queer, asexual, bisexual, etc.
Despite losing the vote, IPOC complaints about California’s sex education guidelines received national media attention. There were over 200 TV stories nationwide, with articles in the nation’s major newspapers, including the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and LA Times.
IPOC plans to hold a statewide Sex-Ed-Sit-Out this Friday to protest how sex education is being taught in California public schools. Find out more information here.