Ads in Prop 8 Focus on Marriage in Schools

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 31, 2008

Supporters of Prop 8 have been airing ads like this one: 

 “It’s already happened in Massachusetts, gay marriage will be taught in our schools,  unless we vote yes on Proposition 8…”
Ron Prentice is with the Yes on 8 campaign.  He and other supporters say if the measure fails schools will have to teach about same sex marriage—in their sex education courses. 

 “A component of that sex ed must include the definition of marriage and talking about marriage and so obviously now that same sex marriage is legal in the state, then same sex marriage will be taught the same as tradition marriage.” 

So what does the law say?  The education code states school districts may provide comprehensive sexual health education. Schools that do have to satisfy certain criteria—including that--quote-- instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships.  
That’s the part that’s being interpreted differently by each side in the debate.
Jack O’Connell is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  He calls the Yes on 8 ads misleading.  He’s even filmed an ad on the subject for the No campaign.  He says school districts can and do interpret the teaching criteria broadly. 

 “The laws are very clear, school districts have incredible authority, as they should, and we want each school board, each school district to meet the unique individual needs and set the right policy for their student population.” 

So how does that play out in schools?  We spoke to a few districts to find out.   Janie DeArcos is an Assistant Superintendent with the Folsom Cordova Unified School District—in the Sacramento area.  

 “There really isn’t any kind of mandate right now to teach marriage, heterosexual or homosexual or whatever kind of marriage or partnership. But adolescents do bring these topics up and they have questions about it and the teacher tries to give the best information in the best possible way to help the student.” 

Doctor Lori Vollandt coordinates health education programs for the L-A Unified School District.  She says marriage is not part of their formal curriculum. 

 “We do talk about families though. We talk about families from the context of a committed relationship, people coming together, sometimes it’s a grandmother, sometimes it’s a mom and dad sometimes it looks different in every family.  So there is some reference to family but not necessarily to marriage.” 

But voters apparently aren’t agreeing with the supporters’ arguments that if the measure fails students will learn about same sex marriage in school.  A Field Poll says they reject that idea by a nearly two-to-one margin.