As Catholics, we believe that parents are the first and foremost educators of their children. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that families are the “privileged community” where children grown in wisdom, stature, and grace (CCC 2206-2209). Pope Francis has reaffirmed that the Catholic Church’s view of parents as the primary educators of children, and schools-Catholic and non-Catholic-as partners in the educational process. Thus the Church counsels us to work with public authorities to ensure and protect parental rights. In the Holy Father’s words, “Schools do not replace parents, but complement them.”
“Parents have the right to ensure that their children are not compelled to attend classes which are not in agreement with their own moral and religious convictions. In particular, sex education is a basic right of the parents and must always be carried out under their close supervision, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.” (Article V.c., Catholic Charter of the Rights of the Family)
What is the California Healthy Youth Act?
On January 1, 2016, the California Healthy Youth Act (“HYA”) went into effect requiring California public school districts to provide students in grades seven through twelve with comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention information, including gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. There is ambiguity regarding the opt-out provisions in the instruction of involving discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation. Parents have the right to excuse their children from some or all instruction discussing human reproductive organs. Under the law, school districts may also offer “age-appropriate” instruction earlier than grade 7, and many do. Each school district can determine its own curriculum. Schools are required to inform parents and guardians a minimum of 14 days in advance and parents and guardians have a right to review all materials. Parents also have the right to excuse their children from tests, questionnaires and surveys relating to sex. To excuse a child, a parent must state his or her request in writing to the school district.
What the Law Says
In 1925 the U. S. Supreme Court, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, unanimously affirmed that parents have the right to “direct” their children’s education (268 U. S. 510). California law on sexual health education states that it is the intent of the Legislature to respect the RIGHTS of parents/guardians to supervise their children’s education on the subject of human sexuality. Furthermore, the Legislature recognizes parents and guardians have the ultimate RESPONSIBILITY for imparting values regarding human sexuality to their children. (Ed Code §51937)
What You Can Do
- Investigate how your respective district plans to implement the sex education curriculum and that it is age-appropriate.
- You have a right to opt out without penalty; however, you must do so in writing.
- Ask your school/district what opt-out form is required for all or part of the comprehensive sexual health education. Below are sample opt out forms you may use.To find out which district your child’s school belongs to, visit https://www.cde.ca.gov/schooldirectory.
- Get additional information about the law and in which area a parent or guardian can opt-out, please read the California Catholic Conference Analysis (California Catholic Conference) by clicking the button below
The resources below are referenced for parents to consider in the sexual health education of their children. They can also be considered by parishes should they choose to offer venues or programs to Catholic parents for their public schooled children whom they have excused from sexual health education classes.
Family Education Curriculum
Family Life Program
Recommended for grades K-8 children as a wholesome understanding of human sexuality based upon church moral principles.
Theology of the Body
Recommended for grades 7-12. Theology of the Body for Teens is a faith formation program for teens and pre-teens.
LoveEd is designed to equip, guide and education parents to talk more comfortably and effectively with their children about life, love and sexuality.