Their argument is that our ads are false because Prop 8 has nothing to do with education, only with marriage. The Superintendent of Schools, Jack O'Connell made a an anti-Prop 8 ad, saying that our schools aren't required to teach anything about marriage." These decisions are made at the local level.
Technically, this is true. But if a school district elects to teach comprehensive sex education, then they are required by the Education Code to teach about marriage.
Here is the quote from the Ed Code
"Education Code 51933 specifies that school districts are not required to provide comprehensive sexual health education, but if they choose to do so, they shall comply with the requirements listed below.... instruction shall encourage communication between students and their families and shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships."
So, you see, the Superintendent is technically correct: each district decides whether to offer comprehensive sex ed.
However, 96% of the districts choose to offer comprehensive sex ed. This choice triggers the obligation to teach "respect for marriage and committed relationships." Prop 8 is significant because it overturns the judicial decision that redefined the term "marriage." The 96% of school districts that offer comprehensive sex ed, will be required to teach respect for this new definition of marriage. Maybe schools will opt out of comprehensive sex ed, rather than comply with this provision. Maybe they won't. But those that offer sex ed, will have to comply.
You tell me: who is being misleading here?
Further, the Department of Education has a checklist for districts that offer comprehensive sex ed. This is a tool for school districts "to help guide your review of material for compliance with the Education Code 51933." I hope to have a copy of this checklist posted in the next couple days, so readers can see it for themselves. The seventh item on the checklist states:
"Instruction and materials teach respect for marriage and committed relationships." As you can see, there is no grade level specified for this particular requirement.
Interestingly enough, several of the items on the checklist do specify the grade level. For instance, "Commencing in seventh grade, instruction and materials provide information about the effectiveness and safety of all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy, including emergency contraception." The specificity of these requirements, in contrast with the open-ended requirement about teaching respect for marriage, leaves open the possibility that children younger than 7th grade could be taught about marriage, in its new meaning.
So who is being misleading here?
It depends on whether you think the ads are saying "with 100% certainty, small children will in fact be taught about gay marriage," or whether you think the ads are saying, "it is a distinct possibility that children of all ages could be taught about gay marriage."
The ad states: "Teaching children about gay marriage will happen here unless we pass Proposition 8."
This is the only statement in the ad that our opponents can possibly questioning. Every other statement tells what happened in MA, or reports what is in the Education Code. And notice this statement does not say at what age children will be taught about gay marriage. It doesn't say it will happen in all schools. It says it will happen, which is undoubtedly true: it will happen in some schools for children of some ages.
I doubt that this qualification will reassure the voting public.
There is one other slightly misleading thing about this whole argument. Even if we do pass Prop 8, it may still happen that children are taught about gay marriage in the schools. The gay lobby has other vehicles for acheiving its objectives: vehicles such as SB 777, which prohibits anything that "promotes a discriminatory bias" based on sexual orientation. But this fact is not particularly reassuring to the public.
The No on 8 Campaign is counting on the public to care about these finely grained legal distinctions between what is directly required vs. what is indirectly required. Oddly enough, the polls suggest that the public isn't buying it.