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Parents opposed to comprehensive sex education pull children out of schools, stage rallies across Southern California

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Hundreds of parents opposed to California’s comprehensive sex education curriculum staged so-called “SeXXX Ed” rallies outside county education department offices across Southern California, Friday, May 17, demanding the state stop exposing their children to sexual content including conversations about homosexuality and gender fluidity.

According to organizers of the statewide protest, parents in 46 out of 58 counties participated and thousands of children were kept out schools across California.

On Thursday, May 9, the California State Board of Education unanimously approved the Health Education Framework, which provides guidelines and information for school teachers to incorporate into their sex education curriculum in junior high and high school.

  • Protesters march in front of the Los Angeles County Office of Education during a statewide protest against the state’s approval of comprehensive sex education curriculum on Friday, May 17, 2019 in Downey, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Protesters march in front of the Los Angeles County Office of Education during a statewide protest against the state’s approval of comprehensive sex education curriculum on Friday, May 17, 2019 in Downey, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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  • Protesters march in front of the Los Angeles County Office of Education during a statewide protest against the state’s approval of comprehensive sex education curriculum on Friday, May 17, 2019 in Downey, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Over 100 children and parents with Informed Parents of California (IPOC) protest in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 17 against the stateÕs approval of a comprehensive sex education curriculum that includes discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Over 100 children and parents with signs listen to speakers as parents with Informed Parents of California (IPOC) protest in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 17 against the stateÕs approval of a comprehensive sex education curriculum that includes discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Over 100 people attend a rally as parents with Informed Parents of California (IPOC) protest in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 17 against the stateÕs approval of a comprehensive sex education curriculum that includes discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Over 100 children and adults with signs listen to speakers as parents with Informed Parents of California (IPOC) protest in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 17 against the stateÕs approval of a comprehensive sex education curriculum that includes discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Grandparents, Hala Atik, left, and Fayruz Sabha, center, who have grandchildren in kindergarten, attend a rally as parents with Informed Parents of California (IPOC) protest in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 17 against the stateÕs approval of a comprehensive sex education curriculum that includes discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Protesters march in front of the Los Angeles County Office of Education during a statewide protest against the state’s approval of comprehensive sex education curriculum on Friday, May 17, 2019 in Downey, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Protesters march in front of the Los Angeles County Office of Education during a statewide protest against the state’s approval of comprehensive sex education curriculum on Friday, May 17, 2019 in Downey, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

In 2015, legislators passed the California Healthy Youth Act, which requires school districts throughout the state to provide students with comprehensive sexual health education, along with information about HIV prevention, at least once in high school and once in middle school.

These guidelines include talking to kindergartners about gender identity, using language that is inclusive of the LGBTQ community and advising youth about safe sex, masturbation, contraception, navigating relationships and recognizing signs of abuse.

“Schools have no business teaching kids about anal sex and dental dams,” said John Berry, father of a high school student, who was one of about 60 protesters outside the San Bernardino County Office of Education Friday. “Why is the state of California pushing this on students?”

Berry said he will not stand for an agenda that “is being pushed by the LGBT community.”

“We don’t want our kids raised with this kind of nuttiness,” he said. “We are are bunch of angry mama bears and papa bears protecting our kids and kicking political correctness in its teeth.”

Many of Friday’s rallies were organized by a group called Informed Parents of California, which has more than 25,000 members on its Facebook page. The group’s logo is a roaring grizzly bear carrying its cub.

The battle over comprehensive sex education has been ongoing, especially in Orange County, where the issue has pitted Christian conservatives against progressive groups and the LGBTQ community.

School board meetings have proved contentious, with parents opposed to this new curriculum saying they want to prevent their children from being exposed to sexual content at a young age, and members of the LGBTQ community arguing that the new approach will promote inclusiveness on campus, promote understanding of differences among students and help prevent bullying of LGBTQ students.

The purpose of the framework approved by the California State Board of Education last week is to make sex education inclusive of all students, said Scott Roark, spokesman for the California Department of Education. Parents have the choice to opt their children out of sex education programs in junior high and high school.

“This is not a mandate,” he said. “It’s up to school districts to decide what part of the framework they want to include in their curriculum.”

According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, there are nearly 24,000 children who identify as transgender across the state in grades 7, 9 and 11 and 144,500 who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

During its 2017 annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution which states that gender is “incompletely understood as a binary selection because gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and genotypic (chromosomes) and phenotypic (genitalia) sex are not always aligned.”

A 2016 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concluded that curriculum-based comprehensive sexual education programs contribute to positive outcomes including delayed initiation of sexual intercourse, decreased frequency of sexual intercourse, fewer sexual partners, increased condom use and reduced risks of pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

More than 100 people gathered outside the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, Friday, holding signs that read: “Let kids be kids,” “We cannot opt out of textbooks,” and “Teach facts and health without agenda.” Several wore T-shirts with the hashtag #DontMessWithMyKids.

Stephanie Yates, one of the event’s organizers, said school districts will begin to see children move out en masse if they don’t modify their stance on the sexual education curriculum.

“We’re going to move them out of public and charter schools and into private schools or homeschooling,” she said.

In Riverside County, about 200 people came to the protest outside the county Office of Education, said Tim Thompson, lead pastor of 412 Church in Murrieta. He said the diverse gathering opposed to the state’s comprehensive sex education program included Christians, Muslims and even those from the LGBTQ community.

“Teaching children about gender identity and telling them there is a gender spectrum that is more than male and female is wrong,” Thompson said. “They’re teaching junior high kids about masturbation and it gets even more grotesque in high school. We’re not going to quit until they stop.”

Members of the San Gabriel Valley’s Chinese community gathered outside the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey, Friday, said Dan Liu, a South Pasadena parent of two boys. They held signs in Chinese and English, including one that urged educators to “stop sexualizing our kids,” she said.

Liu said she doesn’t believe topics related to transgender students’ health have a place in public school sex education curriculum. She fears children who are not transgender could be misled into thinking they need gender confirmation surgery or hormone therapy, she said.

The rallies and rhetoric opposing comprehensive sex education is nothing short of fear-mongering, said Laura Kanter, director of policy, advocacy and youth services at the LGBT Center of Orange County.

“They are afraid that by having this inclusiveness (homosexuality and gender fluidity) are going to be normalized and they don’t want that,” she said. “These people have oversexualized all of this so it seems all about sex.”

Kanter said she is tired of attending meetings where opponents of the sex ed curriculum conflate homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality.

She said a transgender youth who attended one of the school board meetings where this issue was discussed was so offended by what he heard that he was afraid to go to the bathroom by himself.

“I just wish they understand that what they’re doing is hurting people,” Kanter said.

SCNG reporter Chris Lindahl contributed to this report.

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