The California Department of Education approved controversial sex education guidelines for public school teachers Wednesday that encourage classroom discussions about gender identity and LGBT relationships, but removed five resources and books, including one that explains sex to students as young as kindergarten.
LGBT advocates praised the new recommendations for giving attention to a community that is often left out of sex education policies.
But some parents and conservative groups assailed the more than 700-page document as an assault on parental rights, claiming it exposes children to ideas about sexuality and gender that should be taught at home.
"It's just scary what they are going to be teaching. It's pornography," said Patricia Reyes, 45, a mother of six who traveled more than 400 miles to attend Wednesday's hearing in Sacramento, the state capital. "If this continues, I'm not sending them to school."
"Not everything under the sun needs to be taught to our kids, with no moral judgment," Greg Burt, director of the California Family Council, told the Sacramento Bee.
"Not everything under the sun needs to be taught to our kids, with no moral judgment."
But department administrators explained their view.
“Our priority is to make all children feel comfortable at school,” the Department of Education said in a statement. “Dispelling myths, breaking down stereotypes and linking students to resources can help prevent bullying, self-harm, feelings of hopelessness, and serious considerations of 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 considered changes to the state’s Health Education Framework during a public hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported. More than 120 people registered to speak at the hearing to support or oppose the new guidelines for K-12 health curriculum, as nearly 200 protesters rallied outside.
After several organizations pushed back on “sexually explicit” and “offensive, reckless and immoral” books included in the document, the board decided to remove five books from the new framework.
One book, titled, “Changing You,” which shows cartoon illustrations of male and female genitals and described what “having sex is” was originally recommended for transitional kindergarten through third-grade students, the Bee reported.
"It's important to know the board is not trying to ban books. We're not saying that the books are bad," board member Feliza I. Ortiz-Licon told the Associated Press. "But the removal will help avoid the misunderstanding that California is mandating the use of these books."
"It's important to know the board is not trying to ban books. We're not saying that the books are bad. But the removal will help avoid the misunderstanding that California is mandating the use of these books."
An earlier draft of the guidelines also suggested high schoolers read the book: “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties,” which includes descriptions of anal sex, bondage and other sexual activity.
Ultimately, California’s finalized framework tells teachers that students in kindergarten can identify as transgender and offers tips for how to talk about that, adding “the goal is not to cause confusion about the gender of the child but to develop an awareness that other expressions exist.”
The document also gives tips for discussing masturbation with middle-schoolers, including telling them it is not physically harmful, and for discussing puberty with transgender teens that creates “an environment that is inclusive and challenges binary concepts about gender.”
Schools are not mandated to use the new framework in their curricula. The framework serves as a way to educate teachers and administrators on state standards about a wide range of health education topics, including nutrition, physical activity, combating alcohol and drug abuse in addition to sexual health.
Students are able to opt-out from lessons about sexual health, the Bee reported. But the state requires students to attend lessons that explain gender identity, discrimination and social issues such as the Supreme Court ruling of same-sex marriage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.