Education Letter to the Editor

Does Calif. Require Schools to Teach About Marriage?

November 11, 2008 1 min read

To the Editor:

As reported in “Union Donations in California Same-Sex-Marriage Debate Criticized” (Oct. 29, 2008), the California Teachers Union donated $1 million in October to oppose Proposition 8, a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot to amend the state constitution to say that only traditional marriage between a man and a woman is valid. The article mentions that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell spoke out in response to TV advertisements for the initiative, which claimed that if same-sex marriage were to be allowed to continue in the state, it would mean schoolchildren, even as young as kindergartners, would be forced to deal with the issue in classrooms. Mr. O’Connell said that California’s public schools “are not required to teach about marriage.”

I think the record needs to be set straight. According to the California Education Code, Section 51933, the state requires instruction about marriage if a district provides sexual health education. The California Department of Education cites on its Web site a survey finding that 96 percent of the state’s districts do teach sex ed. This makes Mr. O’Connell’s comment, and ballot opponents’ claims that legalizing same-sex marriage will not bring instruction on it into schools, riddled with misinformation and seemingly forged to discredit proponents.

Bruce Budnick

San Francisco, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2008 edition of Education Week as Does Calif. Require Schools To Teach About Marriage?