In California, school districts are tasked with selecting their own sexual health curricula under the leadership of their locally elected boards and superintendents. But schools and districts must also be in compliance with the California Healthy Youth Act, which took effect in 2016. More on that in a moment.
Keep in mind that sexual health education is just one piece of California’s Health Education Content Standards, which also cover nutrition and physical activity; injury prevention and safety; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; mental, emotional and social health; and personal and community health.
You can learn more about health education in California at californiahealtheducation.org.
California Healthy Youth Act
The California Healthy Youth Act — sometimes shortened to CHYA — doesn’t mandate a curriculum or spell out specific lessons. Instead, it requires that students in grades seven through 12 receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school. The state legislation also allows districts to offer age-appropriate sexual health education in earlier grades if they choose to do so. But parents can opt out of sex education, and, again, local districts get to determine their own curriculum.
Five primary goals
The language in the California Healthy Youth Act spells out five primary goals:
1. 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;
2. 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;
3. To promote understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development;
4. 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;
5. To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to have healthy, positive and safe relationships and behaviors.
You can access the health education standards by grade level here: www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/. For more information, visit californiahealtheducation.org.