091218 LUSD meeting 01

Attorney and Lompoc resident David Mirback, at podium, speaks to an overflow crowd about a proposed new sexual education curriculum at Tuesday night's meeting of the Lompoc Unified School District board of education.

A proposed sexual education curriculum for Lompoc Unified School District was put on hold during a turbulent meeting Tuesday evening that featured two separate rounds of outcry from parents over the controversial materials.

An overflow crowd spilled out of the LUSD boardroom during the regular meeting of the district’s board of education. Most of the people in attendance were there to speak out against the new sex ed curriculum, which had been placed on the agenda for discussion and possible adoption by the board.

LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald opened the meeting, however, by announcing that the topic had been pulled from the agenda. He later said his decision to postpone the presentation and potential adoption of the curriculum was based on comments he heard earlier in the day from parents and community members who raised concerns about the age-appropriateness of the materials during a “Coffee with LUSD” gathering he and other district leaders hosted in the early afternoon at a downtown coffee shop.

“I asked for the item to be pulled so that we could look at all options and hear the community before a decision was made,” McDonald said of his motivations for taking the topic off the agenda. “I value the voices of the community and want to partner in what is best for kids. I heard a lot of concerns at the (early afternoon) meeting today and wanted more time to examine all avenues.”

At the center of the outrage was the “Rights, Respect, Responsibility” curriculum that LUSD was considering for adoption to meet the requirements of the California Healthy Youth Act, which went into effect in 2016 and requires that school districts provide comprehensive sexual health education, as well as information about HIV prevention, at least once in high school and once in middle school.

The materials were developed by an organization called Advocates for Youth. The organization, according to its website at advocatesforyouth.org, “champions efforts that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Advocates (for Youth) believes it can best serve the field by boldly advocating for a more positive and realistic approach to adolescent sexual health.”

The coursework and information would have been provided to LUSD at no cost, according to district staff.

LUSD, according to a staff report, was planning to use the materials in ninth-grade science classes, seventh-grade health classes and also in fifth-grade classes, keeping in line with the district’s long tradition of teaching sexual education in elementary schools.

The materials were made available for parents to review on Sept. 4 and Sept. 10, and parents were also given the opportunity to opt out of having their kids be part of the curriculum.

Still, several parents raised concerns and made complaints about the way that LUSD officials disseminated information about the new curriculum, as well as the contents of the curriculum itself.

At the early afternoon “Coffee with LUSD” gathering, which was held mainly to discuss Measure E, the district’s $79 million bond that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, the issue was first publicly brought up by a few parents.

Those parents complained that the district only notified parents of students in the affected grade levels about the change in curriculum — rather than all of the parents in the district — and also suggested that the materials were not age-appropriate and that they amounted to “indoctrination” due to their references to LGBTQ lifestyles and topics on gender and sexual orientation fluidity.

The parents also took issue with the fact that the materials discussed condom use and abortion, and did not primarily focus on abstinence as the only completely effective way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Local attorney David Mirback shared those same concerns and passed around a paper to get a group of parents together to help push back against the curriculum. He vowed to reach out to local faith leaders and LUSD officials to help find or prepare materials that would be more amenable for everyone.

Among the complaints raised by the parents was that the proposed curriculum — which includes references to flavored condoms, dental dams, and anal and oral sex — was “too extreme,” amounted to “sexualizing our children,” and some parents said they felt the coursework normalized or even encouraged child sex.

Mirback, who attended both meetings Tuesday, credited McDonald for pulling the discussion and presentation from the Tuesday night board meeting and for showing an apparent willingness to compromise on the issue.

“I want to thank Superintendent McDonald for the reasonableness of how he received the information that I gave to him,” Mirback told the LUSD board and the attendees at the meeting.

Mirback went on to note that the California education code gives parents the right to participate in decisions relating to the education of their children and encouraged the parents at the meeting to provide him with contact information so he could move forward with a plan to form a parent advisory council for Lompoc schools.

“Schools are the most democratic institutions in the country,” he said. “That’s why we’re here, and we appreciate the opportunity. However, many parents aren’t aware of the opportunities available to them to influence the direction and the policies of their child’s schools. If fully utilized, parents have the power to achieve what lawsuits and courts cannot in determining the outcome of their child’s public school education.”

McDonald did not specify when the topic would be brought back for board discussion.

The next regular meeting of the LUSD board of education is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Education Center Board Room, 1301 North A St.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.