Monday, 18 August 2014

Sexually Explicit High-school Textbook Outrages Calif. Parents

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A California school district has pulled an explicit sex education textbook chosen for ninth graders after a full-court grassroots campaign by parents and other concerned community residents.

The Fremont Unified School District decided to put on hold the use of the college-level text Your Health Today, slated for introduction into the ninth-grade health curriculum, following a petition drive from parents that demanded the book's removal.

The 392-page book, which includes all the typical high-school-appropriate coverage of health subjects such as nutrition, fitness, hygiene, and body image, also delves into areas that typical parents would not want their children exposed to in a classroom with other students, such as sexual intercourse, masturbation, and orgasms, along with explicit line drawings of sexual organs and body anatomy. Additionally, the book gets into inappropriate areas such as bondage and sex toys, and includes material that parents and other concerned individuals termed pornographic.

Parents with students in the district began to get involved when they received e-mails alerting them to the book and its content. According to the conservative legal advocacy group Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which has represented parents in the conflict, that concern led to a petition drive which garnered over 3,800 signatures demanding that the district find another text for the middle-school health class.

“I was shocked when I looked at the book the first time,” said one mother, Asfia Ahmed, who has two children who would be forced to use the book. “I am willing to pursue legal action, and I have other parents willing to support me on this.”

During a school board meeting at which parents weighed in on the offensive book, district officials admitted that the electronic version of Your Health Today, which reportedly goes as far as introducing 14-year old ninth-graders to topics such as sex toys and the adult film industry, is so explicit that the district had to turn off its Internet filters to keep the e-text from being blocked.

The PJI's Brad Dacus confirmed to One News Now that what the book promotes is “so perverse, so outrageous, so objectionable that hundreds of parents who normally wouldn't be involved signed petitions and have been communicating to the school district their outrage.”

Legally, he explained, for ninth grade students the book would be considered a clear violation of the California Education Code. “[The code] requires that all such material be age-appropriate — and on its face it is not age-appropriate,” he said. “It's geared toward college students.”

During public testimony about the book at the school board meeting, a number of concerned parents and residents spoke up. “I feel that [the text] is not age appropriate for these kids,” testified Asfia Ahmed. “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.”

Another Fremont resident, Jim Schultz, told board members: “I’m sorry, I cannot see anything a child needs to know in the ninth grade about bondage. What are you teaching them?”

According to the PJI, during the meeting the school district's superintendent, Jim Morris, “drew looks of disbelief from parents when he suggested … that an 'honors' class could be created for some 9th graders to still use the book.”

However, following the intense meeting, the school district released a statement confirming that Morris had recommended that “the Board of Education place the use of the Your Health Today textbook in ninth grade health courses on hold pending further vetting of concerns expressed with some of its content and its use.”

Nonetheless, Morris insisted in a statement that the district's administration and staff believe that the textbook would 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.” He added, however, that “I also recognize and respect the concerns of some of our families and believe this recommendation [to put the book on hold] is a great compromise that will address those opinions while still working toward ultimately providing the best curriculum possible in our schools.”

The publisher of the text, McGraw Hill, has offered to perform some modifications on the book in order to address concerns of parents. But one parent who signed the petition to have the book removed told CBS News that making such modifications would be nearly impossible given the pervasive nature of the offensive material. “There is adult level information throughout this book,” the parent said, “and so I am not sure how a publisher could modify that.”