September 2014 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
or choose print from the menu)


California: Health Textbook “Unsafe for Children” Because of Sexuality Information

In the suburbs of San Francisco Bay, the Fremont Unified School District has been embroiled in a controversy over the proposed use of a respected health textbook that includes a chapter on sexual health. Opponents of the book argued that it was a college-level text whose sexuality content was unsuitable for high school students.

A selection process began over the summer of 2014, with input from a review panel that included parents and teachers, to identify a new textbook for use in Fremont Unified health classes, which enroll approximately 2,500 ninth graders each year. The district school board was faced with a demand from some parents to block the purchase of the health text Your Health Today: Choices in a Changing Society despite the favorable recommendation of the review panel.

Topics in the sexual health chapter include sexting, online dating, and explanations of paraphilias (atypical sexual behaviors and interests) such as bestiality.  Local television news station KPIX-TV reported that sexual topics also included “masturbation, bondage and orgasms, [using] pictures and diagrams that at least one parent called ‘pornographic.’”[1]

At a board meeting at the end of the summer to adopt the recommendations of the review panel, over 250 local residents attended, with a majority of the nearly 60 speakers opposing Your Health Today. Nearly two-thirds of those in attendance hoisted yellow signs that said “Remove College Textbook” while others supporting the recommended text held green signs that said “I support Comprehensive Sex Education.”

Many opponents cited age-appropriateness as the chief reason for urging the board to vote ‘no.’ "When I looked at the book, I couldn't believe the topics that were in there," parent Jim Schultz said. "Bondage? ... How is that a healthy thing to teach a ninth-grade student?"[2]

"I feel that it's not age appropriate for these kids," said parent Asfia Ahmed, who is employed by the district as a paraprofessional in special education. "I have read the book from first page to last, and most pages talk about college kids. It doesn't relate to these kids at all."[3]

The opposition also included substitute teacher Jonna Carlile, who argued that the selection process should start over and consider additional textbook options. "The settings (in Your Health Today) were all adult settings," Carlile said. "There's nothing in there about helping a young person make the right decisions."[4]

"Some topics are not safe for these youth to be introduced to at that age," said Janine Weston, identified as a “Fremont mom” albeit a mom whose children are homeschooled and do not attend the local public schools.[5], [6]

Ahmed and other opponents of the book, under the banner Protect Fremont Children, created an electronic petition, gathering over 2,500 signatures for their case. A hard-copy petition also circulated, gathering at least 1,500 signatures.

Protect Fremont Children denounced Your Health Today on charges that it"exposes youth to sexual games, sexual fantasies, sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices, and additional instruction that is extremely inappropriate for 13 and 14 year-old youth.”[7]

While fewer in number, defenders of the text urged the board to consider the overall quality of its content, pointing out that sexual health amounted to only 20 of the book’s 400-plus pages on overall health. "Please don't let your narrow views of human sexuality affect my child's education," parent Sarah Jeske told the board.[8]

"I came here expecting to see things that would make me go, 'I don't want this book - withdraw it' and after viewing it, that is not how I feel," said parent Becky Bruno.[9]

After hearing public comment and acknowledging the petitions, the five members of Fremont Unified’s school board voted 3-2 against purchasing Your Health Today, but pledged to work with the publisher to make changes, creating a special edition tailored to what the district determines appropriate for 14-year-olds.

Superintendent Jim Morris said in a statement following the board’s decision, "Administration and staff believes the textbook will be an asset to our health curriculum in that it provides the current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health."[10]


[1]Liz Kilmas, “California Parents Defeat ‘Pornographic’ Sex Education Book Meant for High School Freshmen,” TheBlaze.com, August 14, 2014, accessed August 19, 2014 at http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/14/california-parents-defeat-pornographic-sex-education-book-meant-for-high-school-freshmen/.

[2]Chris De Benedetti, “Fremont school district delays adopting controversial health book, will work with publisher to change it,” San Jose Mercury News, August 14, 2014, accessed August 19, 2014 at http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_26334590/fremont-school-district-delays-adopting-controversial-health-book.

[3]Kale Williams, “Fremont district shelves sex ed textbook after parent outrage,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 8, 2014, accessed August 19, 2014 at http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Fremont-district-shelves-sex-ed-textbook-after-5678131.php.

[4]De Benedetti, “Fremont school district delays…”

[5]Stephanie Samuel, “California Parents Object to New Health Book That Includes Oral Sex, Bondage, Drug Use,” Christian Post, August 13, 2014, accessed September 10, 2014 at http://www.christianpost.com/news/california-parents-object-to-new-health-book-that-includes-oral-sex-bondage-drug-use-124746/.

[6]Alyson Whitaker, “Homeschool Book Club,” Tri-City Voice, January 27, 2010, accessed September 10, 2014 at http://www.tricityvoice.com/articlefiledisplay.php?issue=2010-01-27&file=Homeschool+Book+Club.txt.

[7]Samuel, “California Parents Object…”

[8]De Benedetti, “Fremont school district delays…”

[9]Oscar Contreras, “Controversial sex-ed book gets shelved by Fremont Unified School District in Northern California,” ABC23 News, August 9, 2014, accessed August 19, 2014 at http://www.turnto23.com/news/state/controversial-sex-ed-book-gets-shelved-by-fremont-unified-school-district-in-northern-california-080914.

[10]Williams, “Fremont district shelves sex ed textbook…”