AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas State Board of Education on Tuesday discussed proposed changes to health education curriculum, including sex-ed.
The Texas health education standards were written in 1998 and have remained largely unchanged for more than two decades.
Approximately 300 people signed up to testify to the board about recommendations from a series of working groups tasked with compiling changes to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Health Education.
The 50-plus pages of changes include updates to language focused on fertilization, menstruation, puberty, sexual abuse and harassment, dating violence, consent, sexually-transmitted diseases, contraceptives and abstinence.
“There is no room for parents to control students’ access to information about sex,” high school senior Ann Phan testified.
“It is not enough to ask teenagers not to touch each other,” Phan stated. “I cannot tell you how helpful it would have been to have discussed healthy sexual relationships before my friends and I formed ideas of them through pornography.”
Austin ISD’s student health advisory committee chair, Cynthia Soliz pointed out there was no mention of abortion in the proposed standards.
“I’m not asking for value judgements, just black and white information about abortion,” Soliz said.
The recommendations from the working groups made no mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender education.
“I’m not opposed for people to know that there are alternative lifestyles out there,” Austin pastor Joaquin Evans testified. “My concern is what that opens up in the realm of teaching materials, and how that stuff is taught, and the material that comes from Planned Parenthood— and the like— organizations that use excessively graphic material video content.”
Christopher Hamilton, CEO of Austin non-profit Texas Health Action called the draft recommendations a “wonderful first-step in providing comprehensive and inclusive sex education.”
“Thank you for including consent and contraceptives in the latest version of the TEKS,” Hamilton said.
A report by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund in 2019 indicated more than half of Texas public school districts teach abstinence-only sex education, around a quarter of public school districts don’t teach sex education and 16% of them teach “abstinence-plus” sex education.
The board will meet in November for a final vote on the proposed changes.