In this week’s email, a question comes from parents who don’t want their fourth grader to take the school district’s sex ed class:
From: Too Sexy for 4th Grade
In our school district, sex education classes are presented to children starting in fourth grade. My husband and I don’t want our children learning about sexuality in class at school unless it’s part of a core curriculum biology class in high school. We teach our children about human sexuality through the context of our faith, at home.
What can we do? We don’t want our kids in the sex ed classes, but we don’t want them being penalized for missing this instruction.
To: Too Sexy
Am I a dinosaur because I miss the days when fourth graders did dinosaur reports and didn’t have to sit through seminars about sex? Probably.
When it comes to sex ed in your public school, you have certain parental (or guardian) rights. Typically, those include the right to be informed that sexual health material will be presented, the right to evaluate the curriculum before it is presented, and the right to consent to your child’s participation or opt your child out of sexual health classes.
Most districts secure consent in the form of a notice sent home with your child that must be signed and returned to the school, though in some districts, simply notifying you about upcoming sex ed classes is all that’s required. Your consent is assumed if you don’t opt your child out of the classes.
So it’s crucial that you know what your state and your school district require, and what your rights and responsibilities are with respect to curricula about sexuality. You can’t cop out and say no one told you, then react angrily when you find out your seventh grader was part of an awkward demonstration involving a banana and a product named for a mythic Greek warrior. A simple Google search for “state sexuality education law” and the name of your state will lead you to the information you must have to make a thoughtful decision on behalf of your child. When you get this information, go to your child’s teacher or principal and (nicely, now!) ask what the plan is for teaching about sexual health. Explain that you want to evaluate the curriculum to see if it’s right for your child, and ask to see any and all materials, handouts, lecture notes, videos or slides that might be used. Don’t worry that you’ll be perceived as a busybody parent. That’s your job!