- October 9, 2015
Post submitted by Jordan Dashow, HRC Policy Assistant
Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to update and strengthen the state’s sexual health and HIV prevention curriculum. Beginning on January 1, this new law mandates that all public schools include comprehensive information on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV prevention, among other areas, in their sexual health curriculum for students in grades 7 through 12. It also requires schools to offer sexual health education, which had previously been optional.
Every year, 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV. Youth and young adults ages 13 to 29 comprise one-third of those infections. Inadequate sexual health education is a significant barrier to promoting healthy practices among LGBTQ youth. That is why HRC advocates for legislation at the state and federal level, such as the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, to improve sexual health education.
HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program Director Ellen Kahn welcomed the new law.
“This bold and substantive legislation will transform the lives of thousands of LGBTQ teens who will finally have their identities validated, and their personal and sexual health needs addressed,” she said. “This is exactly what young people need and deserve in order to thrive emotionally, physically, and in relationships. We applaud Assemblywoman Shirley Weber for establishing a meaningful approach to inclusive sexual health education and hope to see many other states follow her lead."
Currently, abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs exclude, and at times denigrate, LGBTQ students. Currently, only four states and the District of Columbia, including California, have state laws that require LGBTQ inclusive sex education. The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would provide grants for comprehensive sex education and require inclusiveness of LGBTQ youth in sex education. It would also prohibit federal funding of programs that are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of LGBTQ youth.
In addition to HRC’s policy advocacy on sexual health education, HRC Foundation has expanded its work to focus on LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.
HRC hopes California’s new law will serve as a model to other states and will continue to push for LGBTQ inclusive sex education on the local, state, and federal level.