Frequently Asked Questions: Parents
As a parent, you might have questions about your child's puberty or sex education programming. Here are a few questions parents and guardians often have about sexual health education and Health Connected’s programs specifically.
Why is sexual health education important?
At Health Connected, we believe that every youth has a right to medically accurate information about their bodies and opportunities for skill-building, so they can make informed, empowered decisions throughout their lives. Without access to this information young people are left vulnerable to a host of negative health consequences including sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; unintended pregnancy; sexual coercion; abuse; and exploitation.
Young people are subjected to confusing and conflicting messages about sexuality, particularly with the pervasiveness of technology and social media. The adults in their lives are sometimes ill-equipped or unwilling to discuss these important topics with them. School-based sexual health education provides an opportunity for students to receive consistent, medically accurate information about sexual health. In addition, we strive to create a safe environment for students to ask questions about sex and relationships that they might not feel comfortable asking elsewhere.
Health educators cannot do it alone. We believe parents and guardians are irreplaceable partners in effective sexual health education. Educators can be a trusted source of information and nurture skill-building, but parents, guardians, and caregivers offer the unique support and values-based guidance youth need. Only when parents and schools collaborate in educating youth about different, yet equally important aspects of sexual development, will we provide students the comprehensive education we envision.
What does California Education Code require for sexual health education in public schools?
In January 2016, California adopted a new law, the California Healthy Youth Act, covering sexual health education in public schools. As a parent, student, teacher, or community member, you may want to know the following facts about the law.
- Sexual health education is required twice during a student’s educational career: at least once in middle school and at least once in high school.
- Sexual health education provided in any grade (including puberty education) must be medically accurate and age-appropriate. Materials must be appropriate for students of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, pupils with disabilities, and English learners. All instruction must:
- Affirmatively recognize people have different orientation and include examples
- Teach about gender, gender expression, gender identity and the harm of negative stereotypes
- Encourage communication with parents/guardians/ trusted adults
- Teach about healthy relationships
- Teach about decision making, negotiation and refusal skills
- Teach the value of and prepare pupils to have and maintain committed relationships, such as marriage
- Starting in 7th grade, must cover abstinence, effectiveness and safety of contraception, protection from sexually transmitted diseases, and decision-making. Schools must use trusted sources of information, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, to determine medical accuracy. All pregnancy and STI prevention devices that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration must be covered.
- Schools cannot provide abstinence-only programs. Abstinence-only education presents abstinence as the only option for preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases; California law requires that other methods be included. Many abstinence-only programs are religious in nature; sex education cannot promote religious doctrine.
- Parents must be notified that their child will have sex education at the beginning of the school year or at least 14 days before classes start and be allowed to see the materials before classes start. If a parent does not want their child to take the class, they must make a written request excusing their child from instruction.
- Teachers who will be delivering sexual health education must be trained in the subject. Schools may use outside organizations or speakers provided they have the requisite training, but those organizations must also follow the law when they present.
This is just a brief overview of the CA Education Code. To see the full text of the California Healthy Youth Act, sections 51930-51939 of the California Education Code, click here. If you are concerned that your school is not following the law, we’d be happy to talk with you to understand your school’s situation and connect you with resources.
All of Health Connected’s curricula align with the Health Education Content Standards for California Public Schools and meet the requirements of CA Education Code (sections 51930-51939). For more information on the California Health Education standards, please visit the California Department of Education here.
See a more detailed view of how Health Connected’s curricula meet these standards:
- Health Standards vs. Puberty Talk Curriculum
- Health Standards vs. Teen Talk Middle School Curriculum
- Health Standards vs. Teen Talk High School Curriculum
- Health Standards vs. Teen Talk High School Refresher Curriculum
- Health Standards vs. Teen Talk Adapted for All Abilities Curriculum
Why is my child’s sex ed taught by Health Connected instead of their teacher?
In accordance with the California Education Code, districts may choose to use professional health educators who have been specially trained in the field of sexual health to implement their puberty and/or sex ed programs. Our sexual health educators have taught thousands of 5th-12th grade students and have multi-disciplinary backgrounds in anatomy, gender and sexuality studies, education, and public health. They are deeply familiar with the questions and concerns young people have about sex, relationships, and related topics and are highly experienced at answering these questions in a medically accurate, non-judgmental manner.
This expertise can benefit teachers who may not otherwise have the training or comfort around teaching these sensitive topics. For districts who prefer to have their own teachers deliver their sex education program(s), we offer training and technical assistance to build capacity in delivering our curricula.
It should be noted that Health Connected requires that your child's regular teacher is always present while Health Connected's is delivering instruction, as our educators are not credentialed teachers.
What do you teach?
Health Connected covers all topics required by the California Education Code. At the links below you can read the table of contents and see topics covered in each curriculum.
- Puberty Talk
- Teen Talk Middle School
- Teen Talk High School
- Teen Talk High School Refresher
- Teen Talk Adapted for All Abilities
The exact order of lessons will vary from school to school, based on the specific needs of the community, the class time allotted for Health Connected to teach, and each class’ dynamics.
Why do you include a trusted adult interview in your programs?
Parents and trusted adults are a critical element of high-quality school-based sexual health education. Parents and guardians provide a consistent link throughout a child’s development to discuss their family’s values around personal boundaries, relationships, and sexual activity. Ideally, children begin engaging in age-appropriate conversations about sexual health during elementary school and continue building on these conversations throughout adolescence in close conjunction with school-based sexual health education.
Research shows that parents have a strong impact on their children’s sexual health decisions. According to a 2016 survey by Power to Decide (formerly the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), teens consistently say that parents most influence their decisions about sex. One of the important findings from the survey is that parents and trusted adults have less influence over sexual health decisions as young people grow older, which makes it imperative for parents and trusted adults to start conversations early. There is also research to suggest that participation in family homework assignments as part of a sexual health program can delay sexual activity.
California Education Code requires that sexual health curricula encourage students to communicate with their parents or guardians about human sexuality. All of our curricula incorporate a trusted adult interview to support our philosophy of connecting students and their parents around sexual health. We encourage parents to review the interview beforehand so that you feel more comfortable with the conversation. Here is a link to our parent interviews to get started.
Health Connected also provides programs support parents and families to start (or continue) conversations about sexual health topics. You can find our upcoming parent and family workshops here.
Can I see your curricula?
California Education Code requires that materials used for sexual health education be made available for inspection. Some of the schools and districts with which we partner provide a copy of our curriculum on site. If so, you can contact your child’s teacher or a school administrator to schedule a time to review the curriculum at your school. If this is not the case for your school, you are welcome to contact us at parents(at)health-connected.org to speak with our Parent Engagement Manager.
Currently, we cannot make curricula available online in their entirety for proprietary reasons; however, we have developed parent guides to accompany each of our most frequently used curricula to make course content more accessible to parents. You can contact our Parent Engagement Manager at parents(at)health-connected.org to get the parent guide for the curriculum your student will be receiving.
If Health Connected is not teaching in my child’s school, how can I find out what my school or district provide for sex ed?
The first place to start is to contact your child’s teacher or a school/district administrator. School districts are required to provide information to parents upon request about their sex education policies and curriculum.
If my school is not providing sex ed in compliance with California Education Code, what can I do to bring sex ed to my school?
We’re always happy to talk to parents about how they can work with their school or district to integrate comprehensive sexuality education in compliance with California Education Code. Feel free to contact us at info(at)health-connected.org or fill out the form here. Another great resource is the toolkit provided on the getWISE website: http://wisetoolkit.org/overview. This toolkit provides guidelines for how to effectively build a commitment for comprehensive sexuality education.
For more in-depth information about integrating comprehensive sex ed at your school, download the question and answer guide concerning California sex education law from here.
When should I start talking to my child about sex? How do I start the conversation?
Providing youth guidance about sexual health can be challenging. During our experience working in school districts statewide, we've heard questions like, "My child doesn't want to talk to me about sex. What do I do?", " When should I start talking about consent?", and "Growing up today is so different! I feel disconnected. How can I relate to my teen?!"
There's no "right" answer to these questions, or a perfect time to address them. But research does show that youth benefit from open, honest, age-appropriate conversations about sexual development that start early and happen often.
We've developed Lets-talk.how, to help parents build confidence and comfort in talking to their kids about sex and relationships. We believe the more parents and families are supported, the more young people will feel supported, too! For even more tips for starting these conversations, click here.
I love what you do! How can I support Health Connected?
There are many ways to support our important work! One of the simplest and most engaging is to attend one of our Tours of 21st Century Sex Ed. At the tours, community members can get to know our programs, learn about our impact, and meet our staff. This is not a fundraiser, but instead, a way to spread the word about Health Connected's work, and raise our visibility in the community. Here you can speak to staff about volunteer opportunities, too!
If your child had a positive experience during one of our school-based programs, please tell other parents and let your child's teacher and school administrators know!
We are community-based nonprofit organization - our programs are made possible by contributions from generous individuals. Click here to learn about making a gift.
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