California school district stops using sex ed textbook that’s ‘equivalent to pornography’

A San Francisco Bay area school district has temporarily suspended a ninth-grade health textbook after some objected to its mention of sexual bondage and erotic toys, arguing some passages are “equivalent to pornography.”

Fremont Unified School District superintendent Jim Morris put the book, called “Your Health Today,” on hold while the district vets parents’ concerns. Some in Fremont, Calif., expressed fears the text will expose students to sexual fantasies, games and bondage scenarios involving, for example, ropes and handcuffs, the Los Angeles Times reported. And, as of Tuesday morning, more than 2,300 people had signed a petition to ban it.

Courtesy of McGraw-Hill
Courtesy of McGraw-Hill

The book’s publisher, McGraw-Hill, agreed to modify the book, according to a statement from the school district. The Board of Education will meet Wednesday to discuss using the district’s old textbook in the meantime.

“Our administration and staff believes this textbook will be an asset to our health curriculum in that it provides current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health,” Morris said in the statement.

The book, approved by the school district in June, includes a page that outlines the “human sexual response model,” complete with diagrams of sexual organs in different stages of arousal, such as excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

According to one paragraph in a chapter on sexual health:

Erotic Touch Touch is a sensual form of communication that can elicit feelings of tenderness and affections as well as sexual feelings. It is an important part of foreplay, touching that increases sexual arousal and precedes sexual intercourse. Some areas of the body are more sensitive to touch than others. Skin in the nonspecific erogenous zones of the body (the inner thighs, armpits, shoulders, feet, ears, and sides of the back and neck) contain more nerve endings than do many other areas; these areas are capable of being aroused by touch.

The paragraph goes on, mentioning, ahem, more specific erogenous zones before a discussion on masturbation.

“I feel that it’s not age appropriate for these kids,” parent Asfia Ahmed told the Chronicle. “I have read the book from first page to last, and most pages talk about college kids. It doesn’t relate to these kids at all.”

Then again, Becky Bruno, another parent, said she almost signed the petition to ban it until she read the text for herself.

“I was expecting to see explicit pictures, expecting controversial information, and I didn’t find that in the book,” she told San Jose Mercury News. “Yes, there is a section on sexual health, but the pictures are drawings of anatomy and would be the same thing they were exposed to in elementary and middle school. I didn’t see anything that would be categorized as pornography, and that’s what some of the parents are saying.”

Some district officials and school staff members said the text provides up-to-date information for the district’s 2,400 freshmen.

School board president Lara Calvert-York told the Mercury News last week that the district needs to teach teens about sex because, by ninth grade, many are sexually active.

“We know this from student surveys done in our own district,” she told the newspaper. “Ninth grade is the last time when we have an opportunity to help educate our students on how to be physically and emotionally safe.” And she told the Chronicle, “We really want them to have a safe place to get facts about their bodies and how to handle things and how they need to be mature to deal with these things.”

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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