Set standards for sex ed

Lauren Shaw-Stryker is the education manager for Planned Parenthood-Mar Monte.

In a year of considerable budget restraints and infrastructure deterioration, this is no time to waste state money on ineffective programs. Currently, there is no consistency across state agencies that would require community-based sexuality-education programs to adhere to the same basic standards that most public schools follow and that Californians enthusiastically support.

California needs a way to hold community-based sex-education programs to the same high standards as it does for schools sex-ed programs. AB 629, the Sexual Health Education Accountability Act, does exactly that. AB 629 sets basic, common-sense guidelines for state-funded, community-based, sexual-health education programs, and ensures that scarce public funds are not being used to teach inaccurate, biased and incomplete sex education, denying young people the facts they need to protect their health.

This bill would ensure our communities receive age-appropriate, as well as medically accurate and objective, sexual-health information that is geared toward the needs and maturity of the students in the classroom.

Studies show that Californians overwhelmingly support the comprehensive sex-education guidelines included in AB 629 as a way to educate teens about all aspects of reproductive health care. A poll of California parents released this spring by the Public Health Institute reveals that 89 percent of parents support comprehensive sex education, including 86 percent of evangelical Christians. Ninety-six percent of those polled said they oppose abstinence-only sex education.

Comprehensive sex education supports and strengthens parent-teen communication, is effective in reducing unintended pregnancies, STDs, and in delaying the onset of sexual activity. In contrast, a recent evaluation of the federal abstinence-only program showed that it had no impact on students’ sexual behavior.

For more than a decade, California’s dedication to teaching comprehensive sex education has made the state a national leader in effective teen pregnancy prevention policies and programs. Since 1991, California has led the nation in reducing the teen pregnancy rate by 46 percent. Still, the state has the seventh-highest teenage-pregnancy rate of any state.

AB 629 is a critical step in ensuring that state dollars are spent responsibly to support quality sexual health education programs in communities with the greatest needs. AB 629 is sound public policy and makes fiscal sense. Join me by encouraging the governor to sign AB 629.