There are people in the San Joaquin Valley — even some teachers and school board trustees — who believe that public schools should not provide sex education or do as little as possible.

They will conjure up whatever excuse they can to avoid teaching “the facts of life.”

Fresno Unified School District, for example, cited a tight budget for dropping sex education in 2011.

Unfortunately, our communities and thousands of youngsters must deal with the consequences of this poorly conceived public policy every day.

Here are the devastating realities cited in a Dec. 10 Fresno Bee editorial: “Half of California’s 10 counties with the highest teenage birth rates are in the Valley, despite statewide and nationwide record lows in teen births. Fresno County has the second-highest rate of syphilis in California and the third-highest rate of chlamydia.”

Survey: Only 8% of Students Receive Sex Ed Info From Parents

It must be noted that Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald S. Black delivered an important ruling with statewide implications on sex education in 2003.

In addition, a survey of about 160 teens conducted by The Bee indicated that 43% of students learn most of what they know about sex from their friends.

The second-most used source for learning about “the birds and the bees” was television and the internet.

Only 8% received their sex education from their parents.

Is this the best that our Valley can do to inform youngsters that avoiding pregnancy until they are out of their teens will immensely benefit themselves and their future children?

Absolutely not.

We must do better.

Fortunately, our state leaders realize the importance of comprehensive sex education.

Comprehensive Sex Education is California Law

Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, authored Assembly Bill 329, which became law last year. The California Healthy Youth Act requires that schools offer a single, mandatory course of instruction with an updated curriculum. The information presented to students must be unbiased and medically accurate, including lessons on abortion and sexual orientation.

Parents, as they should, have the choice to opt their children out of the class.

The law, Weber has said, was inspired by the fact that some school districts were failing to offer sex education or were providing biased and inaccurate information.

It must be noted that Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald S. Black delivered an important ruling with statewide implications on sex education in 2003.

In ruling against Clovis Unified School District in a lawsuit filed by parents and advocacy groups dismayed by the district’s inadequate program, Black stated that student access to medically accurate sex education is “an important public right.”

School Districts Should Hire Best Sex Education Instructors

A final thought for school administrators: Many teachers feel squeamish teaching sex ed. Others have no interest in providing this instruction. It’s best that districts recruit and train teachers who are highly motivated to teach this important subject.

That way, students will have the necessary information to make good choices for themselves and their future families — and to break the Valley’s notorious cycle of poverty.

We commend The Bee for its “Too Young?” public-service service on sex education and teen pregnancy. All of the Valley owes a debt of gratitude to The Bee’s education reporter, Mackenzie Mays, for her diligence in shining a bright light on two subjects in need of widespread attention. She had to persevere against ignorance —and nonsense from people who should know better — to do her job.

Thumbs-up, too, to Fresno Barrios Unidos, which has been teaching accurate, unbiased sex education for decades in the hope of preventing teen pregnancy since 1994. The community benefit organization is a partner with Fresno Unified in its sex education program.

You can read The Bee’s editorial on sex education at this link.

— Written by Bill McEwen

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