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September 2012 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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California: Parents Sue to Rid Clovis Unified School District of Abstinence-Only

In California’s Central Valley, the Clovis Unified School District is facing a lawsuit, filed on behalf of local parents such as Mica Ghimenti, to change the sexuality education curriculum for high schoolers.

The suit alleges that the district is violating state law by teaching only about abstinence. California does not require public schools to teach sexuality education, though they are required to teach HIV/AIDS education to students at least once in middle school and once in high school. If schools do provide additional sexuality education, they are required to ensure that  instruction is age-appropriate and supported by research conducted in compliance with scientific methods and published in peer-reviewed journals.

By withholding medically accurate, inclusive information on all strategies for the prevention of pregnancy and STDs (not just abstinence), the district stands accused of putting students’ health at risk.

The lawsuit was filed in Fresno by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California on behalf of Ghimenti and another parent, the American Academy of Pediatrics California District IX, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

According to an ACLU press release announcing the suit, the district’s high school health text book (Holt’s Lifetime Health) omits information about condoms in its section on sexual health, even in chapters specifically about preventing pregnancy and STDs including HIV. The material teaches students that effective ways to prevent STDs are to “respect yourself, get plenty of rest, go out as a group and practice abstinence”.[1]

Clovis Unified high schoolers are taught that all people should avoid sexual activity until they are married. Other teaching materials “compare a woman who is not a virgin to a dirty shoe and suggest that men are unable to stop themselves once they become sexually aroused.”[2]

Ghimenti, an instructor of health education as well as a parent of three children, has the credentials to speak with authority on the matter: "I want there to be medically accurate, scientifically based education for all youth in Clovis Unified…If we don't give them the information, they won't be able to make good, healthy decisions."[3]


[1] ACLU of Northern California press release, “Parents and Doctors Sue Clovis School District Over Sex Education,” 21 August 2012, accessed 30 August 2012, <https://www.aclunc.org/news/press_releases/parents_and_doctors_sue_clovis_unified_school_district_over_sex_education.shtml>.

[2]Ibid.

[3] Teresa Watanabe, “Clovis Unified District Sued over Abstinence-Only Sex Education,” Los Angeles Times, 22 August 2012, accessed 30 August 2012, <http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sex-ed-20120822,0,2353275.story>.

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