More than 100 people take part in Teen Talk discussion
The Santa Barbara Unified School District board meeting Tuesday was dominated by an hours-long discussion on a new sexual education curriculum called Teen Talk.
Although only slated for a five minute discussion amongst the board, more than 100 members of the public joined in on the virtual discussion to give their opinion on the curriculum. Most who spoke were against Teen Talk, favoring the HEART curriculum instead. The HEART curriculum teaches abstinence-only sex education.
Tuesday’s discussion came after the district reached out to parents in January through five meetings. The outreach only led to 27 opinions — a quarter of what was heard Tuesday.
Junior-high physical-education teachers and high school health teachers voted on the curriculum. Thirteen out of 17 teachers favored Teen Talk.
The board formerly heard a report on the surveys from director of secondary education Anne Roundy-Harter in February. She recommended the board adopt the curriculum, though the board suspended the vote on Teen Talk in March.
Many parents who spoke out Tuesday said they were surprised the board aimed to vote on the issue. Many expressed they thought parents were not properly alerted to the decision.
Several of the commenters were concerned that Spanish-speaking members of the community haven’t been educated about the curriculum, as the provided report was only in English and not in Spanish.
Teen Talk includes 12 bilingual lessons. It is written for seventh and eighth grade and if implemented, will be taught in junior high physical education classes until a health class is created.
Parents have the ability to opt students out of the program, should it be enacted. The district would provide training for parents, in addition to the teacher training.
The majority of commenters were parents, though students also presented. They expressed support for Teen Talk, saying it was more inclusive than other options.
“Teaching students about sex in a purely avoidance method is ineffective,” Dos Pueblos High School student Daniela Elias said. “It blocks them from information that will help them lead healthy sex lives.”
Dos Pueblos alumna Esmeralda Perez added, “The HEART curriculum dismisses the LGBTQ+ community while the Teen Talk curriculum acknowledges it.”
Opponents to Teen Talk said the information was too graphic or that it was contrary to religious and personal beliefs.
Others liked that the curriculum factually addresses content students see on the internet.
“Our kids have access to information through their phone and tablet. We want to make sure that they have fact-based information instead of something that they just see,” board member Wendy Sims-Moten said.
Comments were ongoing at the time of deadline.
The California Healthy Youth Act, enacted in 2016, requires schools to teach comprehensive sexual health education in both junior high and high school. The district’s current textbook was chosen prior to this law, and the district is not currently compliant with CHYA.