Protesters gather to support OC sexual education act


Protesters gathered outside of the Orange County Department of Education building in Costa Mesa, holding up signs to promote educational inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ students. Photo by Maura Kate Mitchelson

The Orange County Board of Education held a forum Sept. 26 where panelists who opposed the California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA) discussed the impact of the law, which requires that comprehensive sex education in California schools be inclusive of LGBTQIA+ high schoolers and middle schoolers.

Outside the building where the forum was held, the LGBT Center OC organized a rally in support of the act with at least 30 supporters, including Peter Simi, a Chapman sociology professor. During the rally, CHYA critics yelled slurs and profanities at the protestors.

“(The panel’s) agenda is much bigger than CHYA,” Laura Kanter, director of Policy, Advocacy and Youth Programs at the LGBT Center OC and one of the rally’s organizers, told The Panther. “Their agenda is that they think being LGBT is a sin and that it is wrong, and it is bad, and it is sick and it is perverted. They are going to do what they can to try to prove that.”

Although the act was passed in 2015 and took effect in January 2016, Kanter said some schools in Orange County have illegally chosen not to formally implement the law.

Members of the community who oppose the law have been increasingly vocal during school board meetings, Kanter said.

“It (has) only really been the past few months where this group of people have come to board meetings and organized to prevent the implementation of the law,” Kanter said. “They’re going to school board meetings and spreading a lot of misinformation.”

The act also requires that information about sexually transmitted infection prevention be included in all public school curriculums in the state of California and taught at least once in middle school and once in high school.

By age 18, 55 percent of both male and female high school students have had sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Members of the panel brought in by the Orange County Board of Education have connections to known anti-LGBTQIA+ groups, like the American College of Pediatricians and Focus on the Family, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign.

“I have a short message, maybe three words: hate is hate,” said Simi, who spoke at the rally. “We cannot be deceived when hate hides behind a church, we cannot be deceived when religion is used to justify hate.”

Lisa Sparks, dean of Chapman’s School of Communication and wife of University President Daniele Struppa, voted as a member of the Orange County Board of Education to approve this forum, Kanter said. Sparks won a June 5 Board of Education trustee election by 32 percent and represents the fifth district in Orange County. Sparks declined to comment on the event, as she said she keeps her work at Chapman separate from her role as Board of Education trustee.

“(This forum) wasn’t going to provide for the community what the community needs, which is to be educated about why CHYA is important and about the youth it is supporting, which is not just LGBT youth,” Kanter said.

At the beginning of the rally, three people – one wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat – surrounded the protestors and called the rally speakers “perverts.”
Robert Loughton, a Brea resident who stood outside the building where the forum was held, said he believes that CHYA will hurt students and referred to it as “satanic.”

“The people who support this are psychopaths,” Loughton said. “A psychopath is a person that intentionally creates human misery and then the psychopath steps back and enjoys the human misery that he created … It is not sex education, it is sexual perversion.”