Parents formed a group and started gathering information about the topic before launching the petition, which has since collected about 1,200 signatures.

The parents leading the effort have told the district that they will "resort to immediate legal action" if the district continues to offer Teen Talk in the middle schools.

The school district added the seventh-grade curriculum after a state law was updated with more comprehensive requirements around sex education for public schools and took effect last January.

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Previously, districts were only mandated to provide HIV-prevention education in middle and high school, though middle school science teachers in Palo Alto Unified said they have long taught their own sexual-health curriculum.

Using a single curriculum -- Health Connected's -- "ensure(s) consistency of information to all students" and compliance with the updated law, the district said in a statement.

Palo Alto Unified middle school students learned about human reproduction, abstinence and healthy relationships this spring in a new sex-education program that now has some of their parents threatening legal action if the school district doesn't take steps to address what they say is age-inappropriate, graphic and even harmful content.

The Palo Alto school district asked Redwood City nonprofit Health Connected, which has for about six years trained the high schools' Living Skills teachers as well as district nurses in sexual health education, to teach its curriculum to seventh-graders this year.

Karlin-Resnick said this is included because the law requires any curriculum to explain all methods by which people can contract sexually transmitted infections and to be inclusive of all sexual orientations.

Instruction must include, under the California Healthy Youth Act, information about "the manner in which HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are and are not transmitted, including information on the relative risk of infection according to specific behaviors, including sexual activities and injection drug use." Defining all three types of sex also expands the definition of abstinence, Karlin-Resnick said.

Risky behaviors, like underage drinking or nonconsensual sex, are raised in a preventative light to help young people "put knowledge into practice in a safe and facilitated space before they encounter similar situations outside the classroom," Health Connected Executive Director Abi Karlin-Resnick wrote in an online FAQ posted Thursday in response to parents’ concerns in Palo Alto.

"It's a little bit counterintuitive for parents to understand that providing more information doesn't actually encourage the behavior," Karlin-Resnick said in an interview.

"I understand some young people will experiment and believe information is important …