The tables were turned on the Santa Barbara School District last week as it — and not the students — got a report card on its work. Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo doled out a failing grade to the Santa Barbara district for neglecting to meet state-mandated curriculum points for sex education.
The audit, available at publicschoolsproject.org, was conducted in the tri-counties, and each of the 22 school districts in the area participated. Based upon the textbooks and supplemental materials the school districts provided to Planned Parenthood, the report looked at whether or not the curriculum in classes is adequately comprehensive and meets state requirements. There are 15 areas of curriculum, and schools can earn points (out of a possible 100) for addressing more specific details within each category. For example, within the category of contraceptives, schools could earn up to 2.19 points for addressing each FDA-approved method.
California schools don’t have to teach anything more in-depth than HIV/AIDS prevention, but those that choose to teach full sexual health education must do so comprehensively. Every school in the tri-county area has elected to teach this comprehensive sex ed, yet none of them met every curriculum requirement in the audit.
The highest-scoring district was Oak Park (in Ventura County), which got a score of 90.62 and failed to meet standards in only one-and-a-half of the 15 curriculum groups. The Santa Barbara School District, however, scored just 60.5, giving it the lowest score.
Christine Lyon, Planned Parenthood’s tri-county vice president of external affairs, stressed that this was a curriculum and not a classroom audit, meaning that the report reflected only the hard materials (textbooks and handouts) that schools provided and did not include teacher lectures or class discussions.
“This is not punitive. This is an audit of materials to see if the school district is in compliance with the law,” said Lyon in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, Cynthia White, director of curriculum and categorical programs for the Santa Barbara School District, saw the report as being less than reflective of the quality of local sex education. According to White, Planned Parenthood’s request for materials specified that the schools provide it only with material that was school board-approved — a distinction, she said, that prevented the report from encompassing the entirety of the health class experience.
Even so, she said, Planned Parenthood and the Santa Barbara School District have long had close ties.