Schools add LGBTQ to sex ed: Inclusive or overstep?

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Speed read

What's happening: California school teachers who conduct sexual education classes are now encouraged to address gender identity and to offer advice for LGBTQ teenagers under new guidelines issued by the state's board of education.

The guidelines offer tips on discussing gender identity with children as young as kindergarten. It also includes advice for integrating "gender-neutral and LGBTQ-inclusive language," discussing masturbation and promoting safe sex practices for both straight and LGBTQ students. The new format is not mandatory, but rather intended as a blueprint for schools that choose to use them.

Why there's debate: Advocates for LGBTQ issues have applauded the reforms for providing information to a population of students that is often overlooked in sex ed coursework.

Some parents have complained that the guidelines violate their rights to decide what their children learn about sexuality and when they learn it. Conservative groups have also argued that frank discussions about sex and gender have no place in the classroom.

What's next: California's new guidelines are part of a larger movement taking place in a number of states as policymakers reconsider the standards for teaching sex ed. Colorado's legislature recently passed a bill to mandate "comprehensive" sex ed and bar schools from teaching abstinience-only programs, which are the only type of sex ed programs allowed in several states.