State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
- California schools are required to teach sex education.
- Sex education instruction must be comprehensive.
- Curriculum must include information on abstinence.
- Curriculum must be culturally competent for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, include instruction on gender identity and expression, and when providing examples of relationships and couples, include examples of same-sex relationships.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent. However, curriculum must include instruction that provides students with “knowledge and skills they need to form healthy relationships that are based on mutual respect and affection, and are free from violence, coercion, and intimidation.” The updated Health Education Curriculum Framework also includes instruction on affirmative consent.
- Parents or guardians can remove their children from sex education instruction or STI/HIV education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
- Sex education instruction must be medically accurate.
California Education Code § 51933-51934, known as the California Healthy Youth Act, requires school districts to ensure that all students in grades 7–12 receive comprehensive sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school. It also mandates that the curricula be age-appropriate, medically accurate, objective, and “appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds; pupils with disabilities; and English learners.” The law further requires instruction to teach students about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and gender stereotypes.
Schools can elect to offer sex education earlier than grade 7, in which case they must adhere to the same requirements. No program may “promote or teach religious doctrine,” instruction must encourage parent-child communication about sexuality, and instruction must “provide information about the effectiveness and safety of all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy, including, but not limited to, emergency contraception.” Parents or guardians may remove their children from sex education and/or sexually transmitted infection (STI)/HIV education classes.
In 2018, California enacted three pieces of legislation that impact sex education. Ch. 428 allows school districts to provide an optional component of sex education instruction on the potential risks and consequences of creating and sharing sexually suggestive or explicit materials through cell phones and digital media. Ch. 807 requires the already-mandated information about human trafficking in sex education instruction to further include information on how social media and mobile devices are used for human trafficking. Ch. 495 extends California’s Healthy Youth Act to charter schools, requiring them to provide comprehensive sexual health education in grades 7–12.
State Profiles provided by SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. For more information regarding your state’s sex ed policy, visit https://siecus.org/state_profile/california-state-profile/