Advocates press Fresno Unified to restore sex education classes

The Fresno BeeDecember 12, 2013 

Youth advocates urged Fresno Unified School District to revamp its sex education curriculum Thursday evening, saying budget cuts have hurt such programs for high school students.

More than 40 advocates, parents and school officials gathered at a forum in southeast Fresno sponsored by Fresno Barrios Unidos to discuss the lack of comprehensive sex education offered to the district's students. Due to budget cuts, the district in 2011 dropped "Sociology for Living," the class that provided sex education to high school students.

Jasmine Leiva, a health educator and youth organizer with Fresno Barrios Unidos, said the lack of information is having a direct impact, worsening the county's already alarming teenage pregnancy rate. She said the community-based organization -- which works to promote and empower young people -- wants to cooperate with the district to bring the class back.

"Since the class was cut we had a lot more students who weren't getting that necessary information," she said. "A lot of students don't have anyone at home they can talk to about it."

Luis Chavez, a Fresno Unified school board member who attended the forum, said the district is hoping to work with organizations such as Fresno Barrios Unidos to improve the district's sex education programs.

"This is a good start, what I would like to see is for us in the future to pick up some of those courses that we did cut back," he said. "In the meantime it would be a great opportunity to allow organizations like Fresno Barrios Unidos to provide workshops at schools."

The 90-minute event featured speakers from the Fresno County Public Health Department and the American Civil Liberties Union, who talked about health trends and state requirements for sex education.

Volunteers working with Fresno Barrios Unidos surveyed 300 Fresno Unified students last December to assess the impact of the sex education cuts. The survey concluded that the quality, quantity and accuracy of sex education in the district's high schools had declined since 2011, Leiva said.

The survey found the number of ninth-graders receiving sex education dropped from 81% to 27%, volunteer C.C. Pyle said. Ninth and tenth graders who were surveyed said that most of the time in sex education class is spent on abstinence, volunteers said.

Chavez said students receive a basic overview in fifth or sixth grade and some high school students are getting sex education through a biology course.

Advocates hung posters around the room urging the district to "commit to providing comprehensive sex ed to all students" and "remove policies that are outdated or in conflict with the law" and requested that school officials commit to these changes.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, or @DianaT_Aguilera.

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