Governor Signs Bill Integrating and Updating Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Education

The California Legislature recently made significant changes to the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act (Education Code § 51930 et seq.).  Under Assembly Bill 329 (Weber), which was signed into law by Governor Brown on October 1, 2015, the Act will be renamed the “California Healthy Youth Act” when it takes effect on January 1, 2016.

The more noteworthy changes this bill makes are the following:

  • Eliminates the discretion under existing law and making comprehensive sexual health education instruction mandatory.
  • Expressly prohibits school districts from excusing students from all or part of this instruction on an “active consent,” or opt-in, basis.
  • Requires that instruction and materials “affirmatively recognize” different sexual orientations and that discussion of relationships include same-sex relationships.
  • Requires that instruction and materials teach about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and “explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes.”
  • Updates HIV and AIDS instruction to reflect a more contemporary understanding in light of the advances of modern medicine, including discussion of the effectiveness and safety of antiretroviral medication and emphasizing that successfully treated HIV positive persons have a normal life expectancy.
  • Requires that students receive information about local resources for sexual and reproductive health care and know their legal rights related to access.
  • Requires that students be provided with information about “all legally available pregnancy outcomes,” including parenting, adoption, abortion, and surrender.
  • Requires that students receive information that will help them form healthy relationships free from violence, including information about “sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking,” as well as “local resources for assistance with sexual assault and intimate partner violence.”

We anticipate that in some communities many, if not all, of the new topics schools will be required to teach students under this new bill will generate controversy, and may cause discord among members of school district governing boards.  In the event disagreements do arise in the wake of this new bill, it is important to emphasize two key points:

  1. The bill totally eliminates school district discretion in this area of instruction; and
  2. All parents or guardians retain the legal right to excuse their children from all or part of this instruction by submitting a written “opt out” request.

Should you require any guidance in navigating potential or actual problems with implementation of the new legal requirements in your school district, each one of our firm’s eight offices is prepared to assist you.

Categories: Legislation

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