A sex-education program in Clovis is under attack from parents who say it illegally emphasizes abstinence and fails to provide accurate medical information.
The state Department of Education is taking the parents' concerns seriously. And a review of the program by the department is likely, a state official says.
The parents want Clovis Unified School District to scrap the program, Teen Choices, a sex-education curriculum for seventh-graders written by Mac Shaw, a former Fowler City Council member.
"Kids are going to get misinformation and make poor choices because of that information," said Aubree Smith, the mother of a 10th-grader at Clovis High School who has not gone through the program and a labor-and-delivery nurse at Clovis Community Medical Center.
Clovis Unified officials say the district has had few complaints about Teen Choices. Still, they plan to review the program this summer.
But the state Department of Education has received enough complaints from Clovis parents to raise concerns about the program, said Sharla Smith, the state's HIV/STD prevention education consultant.
The program likely is the same curriculum used in the past by the Selma and Dinuba school districts, Smith said. Selma dropped Teen Choices after a state audit in 2008, and Dinuba dropped it after a 2010 audit, she said. Smith said that she found the programs did not meet legal requirements in the state Education Code.
On Thursday evening, parents met at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno in Clovis to discuss their concerns and raise awareness. About 30 attended.
They compared notes about the Teen Choices curriculum.
Parent Aubree Smith said that the section on HIV/AIDS begins with the notion that French, or open-mouth, kissing would spread HIV/AIDS. One parent said her daughter was taught that sharing earrings would spread sexually transmitted disease.
"Clovis Unified has great education for students," Aubree Smith said, "and this is an area where they can improve."
Clovis began using Teen Choices three years ago. It pays Shaw $37,000 a year to teach the sex-education course. The state reimburses the district his salary, district spokeswoman Kelly Avants said.
Shaw, a former minister at Fowler Presbyterian Church, has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master of divinity degree. He first wrote the curriculum for Fowler Unified when he served as school board president in the early 1990s. Shaw said the curriculum has been updated several times since, including in 2009 and 2010.
Shaw said his curriculum also is used in Fowler Unified schools, Washington Union High School and Washington Colony Elementary in Easton, Caruthers Elementary and Riverdale Unified, among others in the central San Joaquin Valley.
Mica Ghimenti, a Planned Parenthood health educator in Fresno, said Teen Choices uses outdated information about the success and failure rates of condoms, among other misinformation. Ghimenti has a daughter at Buchanan High School and two sons at Century Elementary School in Clovis, none of whom have gone through the Teen Choices program.
Smith of the Department of Education said a review of the Teen Choices programs in Dinuba and Selma found several problems, including "completely fabricated information in there which is all really based on scare tactics and has no basis in public health."
Marriage was taught as the expected outcome of all students, Smith said. And to teach "'abstinence-only until marriage' education is simply not permitted in California public schools."
Staff writer Alex Tavlian contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (559) 441-6310.