On October 1, 2015 Governor Brown signed a new law mandating comprehensive sexual health education in middle and high school. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2016. Health Connected was thrilled to be a part of the coalition that advocated for this leading-edge legislation that will help adolescents make informed decisions about their sexual health.
Since 2004, as outlined in CA Education Code sections 51930-51939, HIV/AIDS prevention education has been required to be provided at least once in middle school and at least once in high school. While sexuality education was not required to be provided in conjunction with HIV/AIDS education, most schools have opted to provide some form of sexual health education, though not always in compliance with the requirements mandated in the law.
The California Health Youth Act updates the Education Code, which previously only required HIV/AIDS education. Under the new law, comprehensive sexuality education, not just HIV/AIDS education, is now required to be provided at least once in middle school and at least once in high school. Many of the provisions under the current Education Code requirements remain centerpieces of the new mandates including that all instruction and materials must:
Be medically accurate
Be appropriate for: all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, pupils with disabilities and English learners
Be made available for English learners
Encourage communication with parents/guardians/trusted adults
Cover decision making, negotiation and refusal skills
Not reflect or promote bias
Not teach or promote religious doctrine
Provide information about effectiveness and safety of all FDA-approved methods to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
In addition, there are several new provisions designed to ensure young people are provided with the knowledge and skills they need to have healthy, positive, and safe relationships and behaviors. Under the new Education Code requirements, sexual health education content must also:
Affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations and provide examples
Teach about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and the harm of negative stereotypes
Provide information about methods that prevent or reduce the risk of contracting HIV or sexually transmitted infections (such as the HPV vaccine and HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
Reflect our current medical and societal understanding of HIV, including how anti-retroviral therapy can prolong life and reduce risk of transmission
Incorporate an objective discussion about all legal available pregnancy outcomes including parenting, adoption, abortion, and safe surrender, as well as the importance of prenatal care
Provide information about sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking
All of Health Connected’s curricula were developed to meet the needs of our local community and to ensure that the schools we serve are in compliance with the applicable sections of the Education Code. Our middle and high school courses already covered much of the content required under the California Healthy Youth Act. We have recently done a full review of our curricula and made appropriate updates to ensure that they will be in compliance with the new requirements as of January 1.
What can you do?
If you’re the parent of a California public middle or high school student, ask your school leaders how they provide sexual health education and whether they are aware of the new requirements.
If you’re the parent of a California public elementary school student, ask your school principal how they provide puberty education and whether they are aware of requirements outlined in the new law for all sexual health education.
If you’re a public school administrator or teacher, find out what you’re school is currently providing for puberty or sexual health education. If you are not covering the full scope of content that’s required under the CA Healthy Youth Act, we’re happy to be a resource for how to ensure your students are getting all the information they need.
With the California Healthy Youth Act, California is again a national leader in education. Health Connected was grateful to be a partner in this effort. We look forward to being a resource for parents and schools to ensure that young people feel supported and confident to make informed decisions about their own sexual health.