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California school district sued over abstinence-only sex ed

Two California moms are suing a Central Valley school district over its abstinence-only sex education, saying the policy puts students' health at risk by failing to give teens information about condoms and contraception and about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

The civil lawsuit against the Clovis Unified School District was filed in Fresno County Superior Court on Tuesday by the two parents, the California District of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. The ACLU is representing the groups and the two mothers, Aubree Smith and Mica Ghimenti.

"Our kids need complete, accurate information to help them protect themselves against STDs and unintended pregnancy,” said Smith, a mother of a 17-year-old daughter at Clovis High School in Clovis.


"Our children need to know more about sex education than abstinence-only,” said Ghimenti, a mother of three children in the Clovis district. Both women work in medical-related fields; Ghimenti is a health education instructor and Smith is a registered nurse.

The civil lawsuit is the first of its kind in California since the passage of a 2003 law requiring that sexual health education in public schools be comprehensive and medically accurate, said Phyllida Burlingame, reproductive justice policy director at the ACLU of Northern California.

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"The sex ed in Clovis high schools violates state law and gives inaccurate, biased information to students," Burlingame told NBC News. “Schools should teach teens about building healthy relationships, the benefits of delaying sexual activity, and accurate information about condoms and birth control. That's what state law requires and that's what meets the needs of teens."

According to the lawsuit, the school district teaches students that all people, even adults, should avoid sexual activity until they are married.

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District spokeswoman Kelly Avants told NBC News on Wednesday that school officials were reviewing the suit, and then emailed the following statement:

"It appears from an initial review that the concern raised in this lawsuit stems from a question of differing interpretations of the depth and breadth of a school district's obligation to cover detailed sexual content in its family life-sex education materials.

"The District notes that some of the information contained in the suit does not accurately describe existing procedures and practices in Clovis Unified related to parent notification.

“We will continue our review of the suit in order to better understand the concerns raised by the plaintiffs, but Clovis Unified has fully complied with both the California Education Code and the State’s content standards.”

The school district has more than 40 schools, with more than 39,000 students from Clovis and surrounding Fresno County communities enrolled for the 2012-2013 school year, according to school officials.

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