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Prop. 8 and the school debate

Santa Clarita Valley schools say they won’t teach gay marriage regardless of the vote’s outcome

Posted: October 31, 2008 9:40 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2009 5:00 a.m.

Proposition 8 protesters rallied on Monday to show their support for the measure. Local schools have said that regardless of the outcome of the vote on Proposition 8, they will not teach gay marriage in their classrooms.

No student in Santa Clarita Valley will be taught comprehensive sexual health education, which includes teaching about alternative marriage, regardless of the vote on Proposition 8, local educators said.

Under California state law, Education Code 51933, school districts are not required to provide comprehensive sexual health education, but if they choose to do so, they are required to include teaching sex education which can include teaching alternative marriage.

The William S. Hart Union High School District teaches students about HIV/AIDS prevention but routinely chooses not to teach sex education.

“We do not,” said district spokeswoman Pat Willett. “It’s too fraught with pitfalls.”

Marc Winger, superintendent of the elementary Newhall School District, said the debate is a “non-issue.”

“For us, the whole thing has been kind of a sideshow,” he said. “It’s really a non-issue for us.”

Television ads advocating ‘Yes on Prop 8’ were designed to make voters believe gay marriage would be taught in public schools.

“Ultimately, that’s the decision a local school board is going to make,” said Hilary McLean, spokeswoman for Jack O’Connell, California Superintendent of Schools.

In Santa Clarita, the Proposition 8 issue heated up as the days counted down to Tuesday’s election with teams of supporters for both sides of the debate waving placards at more and more of the city’s major intersections.

Marvin Perkins’ home in Bridgeport is punctuated proudly with a bright yellow "Yes on Prop 8" sign.

“We have a hotly contested issue on our ballot,” said the religious father of three. “To try and deceive the public that it would not be included in the school curriculum is disingenuous.”

Perkins remembers as an African-American child “all those tactics used in the civil rights movement,” he said, referring to vandals defacing, stealing or destroying political signs.

“I don’t want my kids recruited for sexuality,” he said.

Although he appreciates that the local high school board does not include sex education in its curriculum, he fears instruction on homosexuality and gay marriage is inevitable.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, supports Proposition 8 and fears that gay marriage will be taught at the elementary school level if action is not taken.

“Clearly, Proposition 8 is probably right below the election of the president in terms of attention and the action behind it,” he said Friday. “My concern is of it being taught in elementary school. The California Teachers Union has spent $2 million dollars to defeat it, that raises even more concerns.”

Cindy Hetzel teaches first grade at Meadows Elementary School.

“Personally, I think it’s very disturbing the way they have distorted this issue in the TV ads,” she said. “We teach tolerance.”


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