North Texas Daily

Hey Texas, let’s talk about sex

Hey Texas, let’s talk about sex

Hey Texas, let’s talk about sex
July 19
19:27 2020

For the first time in 23 years, the Texas State Board of Education will consider a new sexual education policy for Texas public schools. The proposed policy will expand Texas’ primarily abstinence-until-marriage curriculum, but the potential policy change is a couple of decades late. 

This proposed revision is a step in the right direction to revamping Texas’ sexual education, but more needs to be done to provide students with scientifically-proven information during a period when many are exploring their gender and sexual identities. 

The proposed revision would consider teaching seventh and eighth graders other contraceptive methods beyond abstinence and sexually-transmitted illnesses, but continue to stress abstinence-until-marriage in Texas schools, according to the proposal

Currently, Texas public schools are not required to teach sexual education, and health education classes are considered optional or electives. 

State law requires schools to stress abstinence-until-marriage, despite Texas ranking fourth in teenage pregnancy, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Obviously, Texas lawmakers, abstinence-only education isn’t really helping our teenage pregnancy rates, considering how high we’re ranked. 

The Texas Education Code states teachers must “emphasize abstinence from sexual activity, if used consistently and correctly, is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, infection with HIV or AIDS and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity.” 

With 39 percent of Texas high schoolers having sexual intercourse, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer to teach our students adequate health information and to practice safe sex. 

The battle over sex education in Texas has been raging on for decades, with critics arguing over what sexual health topics should be taught at different grade levels, abstinence-only versus abstinence-plus teachings, as well as whether or not sex education should be taught in school at all. 

Texas public schools have become the forerunner for the abstinence-only movement in U.S. education systems and is reflected in the $18 million federal funding Texas received in 2007, more than any other state, according to a 2009 study from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund

President Trump’s proposed budget for 2020 slashed funding to evidence-based teenage pregnancy programs and eliminated the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, redirecting the funding towards abstinence-only programs and HIV prevention. 

Additionally, the Trump administration continued funding for the Title V abstinence-until-marriage program, “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education,” with a $75 million budget, according to the White House Fiscal Year 2020 Budget

A 2019 study found that federally funded abstinence-until-marriage programs didn’t predict a reduction in teen pregnancy and in conservative-leaning states, it was associated with higher adolescent pregnancy rates. 

In addition to the lack of up-to-date sexual health information and direct funding of abstinence-only programs, Texas sex education maligns gay youth and assumes that all students are heterosexual within the curriculum. 

The 2009 study from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund found that discriminatory or homophobic materials are relatively rare in the Texas sex education curriculum, but there’s a lack of information for sexual orientation and often asserts heterosexual relationships.

Sex education programs excluding LGBTQ+ information creates a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ youth, which can contribute to homophobic or transphobic bullying in schools, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study found.

Texas’ failure to educate their growing, diverse student population is shameful and the sidelining of evidence-based adolescent research only asserts the control Texas legislators have over young people’s bodies and the ignorance towards scientifically-proven data our lawmakers refuse to accept. 

At the very least, health and sex education classes should be upgraded to reflect evidence-based information, in addition to abstinence-until-marriage materials. Texas legislators should at least provide scientifically-proven course materials to decrease our already high teenage pregnancy rates and properly educate our youth. 

In my school district in suburban Houston, sex education and health classes were “blow-off” classes and the curriculum was severely out of date. Updating the sexual health curriculum is imperative to repairing our education system’s tendency to gloss over vital information for students.

Students having to educate themselves on their own time simply because their health class doesn’t teach them the basics of safe sex and STI prevention is shameful and needs to be addressed by the Texas legislature. 

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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