Reactions mixed to changes to Texas sex ed lessons

Health+teacher+Francisco+Flores+helps+a+student+do+their+work+in+class.

Joaquin Arredondo

Health teacher Francisco Flores helps a student do their work in class.

After more than two decades, the Texas State Board of Education updated the state’s health curriculum, including sexual health and it starting this year, it will include detailed information about birth control and sexually transmitted infections for the first time.

However, advocates of improved sexual education in public schools say it still leaves out some key elements they wanted to see. Another point of criticism from advocates is that despite the state’s high teen birth rate, a recent policy change by Texas leaders made sex education an opt-in lesson, rather than an opt-out, which means some kids might not get any instruction in schools at all.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, although teen pregnancy rates have been going down nationally, Texas remains in the top 10 of states with the highest teen pregnancy rates. Texas has about 22 teen births per 1000 females ages 15-19 which is double the rates of other states such as California with 11 teen births per 1000 females, according to the agency.

Austin ISD’s Human and Sexuality & Responsibility curriculum website says for students to be taught sex education, parents must opt in to the lessons by submitting a signed permission slip from the school three weeks before it starts. If they don’t opt in, they don’t receive any sex education.

While in the past there were some mentions of LGBTQIA+ relationships in sex education lessons in Texas, in the new curriculum that is all gone.

However, students who have taken these health classes offer a new perspective. Students have said about LGBTQIA+ Sex Ed they have, “ skimmed over it a little because it is quite a lot” and that sex education, in general, was bare bones or, “we didn’t actually learn almost anything.” “It was part of health but it was just like one unit.” These students also said that the course was inclusive to all people of all sexualities and genders.

This new curriculum according to txcampaign.org will among other things exclude LGBTQIA+ issues from sex education lessons. Even though for the past years they included it (granted a short section) they decided to end that curriculum this school year.

Photography teacher Lora Alaniz, who advises the campus Gender and Sexuality Alliance organization at Akins, said it is a problem that the state curriculum leaves this out.
“To be honest, it’s just I just feel like they’re hurting students by creating things that exclude them,” she said. “It’s sad to me, that there are people that want to hurt children that want to cause them pain instead of helping them be successful and feel good about who they are on the inside and out.”
Health teacher Francisco Flores said in some ways the new curriculum will be more in depth than last year even though LGBTQIA+ will be excluded.

For example, the new curriculum includes detailed information about birth control and sexually transmitted infections for the first time in Texas.

Despite these problems with the curriculum, Flores said he believes the new standards will be helpful in general because “it is something that kids need to know about.”

For more information about sex education in Texas, including misunderstandings and information about the curriculum visit: www.texasisready.org.