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Five Things to Know about California’s New Health Ed Framework for Schools

By Abby Hamblin, San Diego Union Tribune - Rep: May 20, 2019

A new health education framework approved this month by the California State Board of Education offers guidance on sex education that the board’s president says reflects how “life has become more exponentially more complex.”

The “2019 Health Education Curriculum Framework for California Public Schools” was approved on May 8 despite what the Sacramento Bee described as “large protests.” The California Department of Education says the framework – which is optional for school districts – is “designed to make classrooms more inclusive and help students access the knowledge and skills necessary to grow into healthy adults.”

“Life has become exponentially more complex in the last few decades,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the state board and of the Learning Policy Institute. “The Health Curriculum Framework – developed by educators for educators – gives district administrators and educators the guidance and resources they need to develop curriculum and instruction that can help students adopt healthy behaviors that support their physical and mental well-being and navigate through the sometimes complicated situations that will come their way. Equally important, the framework can help make classrooms safer learning environments free from bullying and harassment.”

Here are 5 key things to know about the framework.

1. What’s in the framework?

It offers teachers and administrators updated guidance on how to teach the health education content standards set in 2008. The new information is based on the 2016 California Healthy Youth Act, according to the Board of Education.

It’s not just about sex education. It covers nutrition, safety, mental health, alcohol and drugs, among other areas of health.

But one item that stand out is the suggestions to use gender-neutral and LGBTQ-inclusive language during health instruction.

For example, it states that “some children in kindergarten and even younger have identified as transgender or understand they have a gender identity that is different from their sex assigned at birth” and that the goal for teachers “is not to cause confusion about the gender of the child but to develop an awareness that other expressions exist.”

The state Department of Education says doing so will make classrooms “safer learning environments free from bullying and harassment.”

2. How did the board decide what goes in it?

It has been a years-long process, starting with the passing of the 2016 California Healthy Youth Act. The process included committee meetings with health teachers across the state and a public comment period, according to the Department of Education.

3. What’s the California Healthy Youth Act?

It was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 and requires California school districts to teach “comprehensive sexual health education” at least once in middle school and once in high school. The law defines that as education “regarding human development and sexuality, including education on pregnancy, contraception and sexually transmitted infections.”

Parents can opt their children out of this sex education. Other criteria listed in the law: inclusion of same-sex relationships, encouragement of students to talk to their parents about human sexuality, the value of committed relationships and exclusion of religious doctrine from teaching and classroom materials.

4. Do school districts have to use this framework?

It’s not a mandate. School districts still set their own curriculum.

5. What else do I need to know?

In response to whether the framework is “controversial” for its teachings about sexual relations, sexual orientation and gender, the Department of Education suggests in an FAQ list that the guidance will make all students feel comfortable at school. It cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that “students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual” are more likely to be bullied and consider suicide.

“Dispelling myths, breaking down stereotypes, and linking students to resources can help prevent bullying, self-harm, feelings of hopelessness, and serious considerations of suicide,” the Department of Education says.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune



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