Students in a Fresno County, California, school district are taught that HIV can be spread through kissing, and the right way to prevent STDs is by going out in groups with friends, getting plenty of rest, and practicing abstinence. Their “Lifetime Health” textbook, which Clovis Unified School District uses for its high school sex education curriculum, makes no mention of condoms or contraception.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the school district on behalf of two students’ parents who say the school is violating state law by failing to provide students with comprehensive sex education. One of the parents, Mica Ghimenti, joined the lawsuit after noticing medically inaccurate information in her daughter’s ninth grade health class:
The lawsuit against Clovis Unified, which serves 39,000 students in Fresno County, alleges that the abstinence-only curriculum is risking young people’s health by denying them accurate information about how to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
“I want there to be medically accurate, scientifically based education for all youth in Clovis Unified,” said Ghimenti, a health education instructor. “If we don’t give them the information, they won’t be able to make good, healthy decisions.”
Kelly Avants, Clovis Unified spokeswoman, said the district fully complies with state education law that promotes abstinence as “the only 100% surefire way to prevent pregnancy” and STDs. Asked about allegations that the district omits information about condoms and contraception, Avants declined to comment.
The lawsuit alleges that, in contrast to Avant’s assertion, a 2003 law requires California’s public schools to provide students with medically accurate, comprehensive information about HIV prevention, STD contraction, and FDA-approved methods for preventing pregnancy.
Just last week, the California State Department of Health released a report noting that the state has seen a jump in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Syphilis cases in California increased by 18 percent between 2010 to 2011, and there was also a 5 percent rise in chlamydia cases and 1.5 percent rise in gonorrhea cases during the same time period.