AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A new report analyzing sex education in Texas says challenges remain in Texas classrooms when it comes to teaching this topic and groups are calling for an overhaul of the state’s health curriculum.
More than half of Texas public school districts teach abstinence-only sex education, according to a report by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Around a quarter of public school districts don’t teach sex education and 16% of them teach “abstinence-plus” sex education.
Right now, the Texas State Board of Education is in its early stages of revising the state’s health curriculum standards, which oversees sex education. According to the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, this is the first revision of these standards in more than two decades. The board adopted abstinence-only textbooks back in 2004.
“Let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with abstinence, but what comprehensive sex education opponents fail to mention is that abstinence is included in comprehensive sex education,” said Jennifer Driver, state policy director of SIECUS. “When young people receive sex education, they not only receive accurate information about abstinence, but they also receive developmentally appropriate information that addresses everything from sexual health and behaviors to relationships, society and culture.”
Leaders from both organizations say sex education should also address consent, sexual violence prevention, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The report breaks down recommendations by grades.
This report comes as the Austin Independent School District’s board will be voting on its updated sex-ed curriculum this upcoming Monday, on Sept. 23. The new curriculum would apply to students between third and eighth grade.
Previously, former Councilman Don Zimmerman sent a statement opposing curriculum for third graders and states that sex education “should not be a priority” for the school district over math, science and literacy.
“Every hour spent sexualizing young children is an hour lost on actually educating children to make wise decisions on their own as adults,” Zimmerman wrote.
Susan Mack, a mother of two from Austin, supports an overhaul and wants the State Board of Education to consider adding these topics in the sexual health education curriculum. Mack worries if students don’t receive this education in the classroom, curiosity will lead them to areas of the internet that haven’t been vetted for accuracy.
“The information out there on the internet is not age-appropriate,” she said. “We have no way to know whether it’s fact-based or adequate and we don’t know what the intent is of the people who are posting it.”
Over the next few months, there will be hearings with the State Board of Education dedicated to new curriculum standards surrounding sexual health education. It’s expected there will be a vote sometime next fall.