Mothers Sue California School District Over Abstinence-Only Sex Education

A lawsuit filed against Clovis Unified School District alleges the schools violate California law by teaching biased, abstinence-only education in its high schools. 

BY Daniel Reynolds

August 23 2012 2:54 PM ET

A California school district may have broken the rules by teaching "no sex" education.

Two mothers are suing the Clovis Unified School District over its sex education curriculm, claiming that the Northern California district's abstinence-until-marriage teachings endanger the health of its students by omitting information about condoms and contraception.

The lawsuit was filed by the two parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics California District IX, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. They are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Our kids need complete, accurate information to help them protect themselves against STDs and unintended pregnancy," said Aubree Smith, a plaintiff in the suit and mother of a 17-year-old daughter at Clovis High School, in an ACLU press release. "That’s information they’ll need at whatever point in their life they become sexually active.”

According to ACLU representative Phyllida Burlingame, this is the first lawsuit of its kind since California passed a law in 2003 requiring public schools to provide sexual education that is "comprehensive, medically accurate, science-based, and bias-free." She claims that Clovis district, which includes more than 40 schools with more than 39,000 students, fails to meet these standards.

“The sex ed in Clovis high schools violates state law and gives inaccurate, biased information to students,” Burlingame said in the press release. “Schools should teach teens about building healthy relationships, the benefits of delaying sexual activity, and accurate information about condoms and birth control. That’s what state law requires and that’s what meets the needs of teens.”

In a post on the ACLU blog, Burlingame points to several controversial examples from the district's teaching materials, including the promotion of abstinence until marriage and the comparison of a girl who is not a virgin to a "dirty shoe."

A representative from the Clovis Unfied School District, Kelly Avants, denies that the current curriculm is unlawful.

"We will continue our review of the suit in order to better understand the concerns raised by the plaintiffs," she told NBC News. "But Clovis Unified has fully complied with both the California Education Code and the state’s content standards."

According to the ACLU, the STD rates of California teens have been rising over the past decade. Fresno County, where the Clovis Unified School District is located, has the state's highest rate of chlamydia infection among the 15- to 24-year-olds. It also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in California.

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