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Sex Education in Texas Public Schools

Sex Education in Texas Public Schools

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Published by ProgressTX

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Published by: ProgressTX on Jul 03, 2012
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12/25/2012

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Sex Educationin TexasPublic Schools:
Progress inthe Lone Star State
 
NOVEMBER 2011
 This report was made possible by the generous support of:Alice Kleberg Reynolds FoundationEmbrey Family FoundationMs. Foundation for Women
 
Sex Education in Texas Public Schools 3
Texas has long had a reputation as the poster child orthe abstinence-only sex education movement. Mucho this reputation has been well-earned. Not only hasTexas received more ederal abstinence-only dollarsthan any other state (by a signicant margin
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), in recentyears abstinence-only programs have enjoyed a virtualmonopoly over sex education instruction in Texas publicschool classrooms. An earlier study by the Texas FreedomNetwork Education Fund (TFNEF) documented thatduring the 2007-08 school year, ully 94 percent o Texasdistricts employed a strict abstinence-only message thatomitted reerences to – or discouraged use o – condomsor other orms o contraception.
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 Meanwhile, health ocials have begun reerring to thesky-high pregnancy and STD rates among teens in Texas asa legitimate public health crisis. The sobering chart titled“Texas Teens: Prole o the Problem” (below) shows whythe public health community is sounding the alarm.Despite knowledge o these troubling statistics, when itcomes to sex education in our schools, state leaders havebeen fying blind. State law requires schools that includesex education in the curriculum to emphasize abstinencerom sexual activity, but it leaves decisions about thecontent o classroom instruction largely up to each o thestate’s more than 1,000 individual school districts. Andno one – not even the Texas Education Agency – tracksor monitors what schools are teaching in this area. As aresult, inormation about what is being taught in Texasclassrooms has been entirely anecdotal and local.In the spring o 2011, however, the Texas EducationAgency made an attempt to collect some basicinormation about school health issues around the state,sending a “School Health Survey” to every public schooldistrict in the state. That survey contained a batteryo questions relating to various school health-relatedpolicies and programs and included several questionsabout sex education, pregnancy and STD prevention.Response to the survey was surprisingly robust,with almost 700 unique submissions rom public schooldistricts (not counting charter or other non-traditionalcampuses).TFNEF worked with a graduate student in the healtheducation program at Texas State University to compileand evaluate the survey data on sex education. Thisreport is based on an analysis o that data. (See AppendixA at the end o this report or an explanation o themethodology employed in this analysis.) While thesample size – as well as the degree o detail included inthe survey responses – is not as extensive as our previousstudy, it provides a revealing snapshot o the rapidlychanging landscape o sex education in Texas.In the three years since TFNEF’s previous study, therehas been a quiet revolution underway in Texas schooldistricts. While abstinence-only instruction remains thepredominant approach to sex education in the state, thisnew data shows a noteworthy surge in the percentage odistricts going beyond a strict abstinence-only messageand including basic inormation about contraception.Just over 25 percent o districts in this sample reportedusing abstinence-plus sex education programs – up rom just 3.6 percent o districts in 2007-08. Because there is alarge body o evidence indicating that most abstinence-only programs are ineective in changing teen sexualbehavior, this is good news or thousands o Texas teensand their parents.
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 This shit away rom abstinence-only programs and towardsex education that includes medically accurate inormationabout contraception actually refects public opinion. Astatewide poll o likely voters last summer commissionedby TFNEF revealed that 80 percent o Texas voters avor“teaching about contraception, such as condoms andother birth control, along with abstinence, in high schoolsex education classes.”
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Shockingly, state policy-makersignore this overwhelming public support. Texas’ policyemphasizing instruction on abstinence has been unchangedor more than 15 years, and Gov. Rick Perry continues totout that policy (even declaring that his personal experiencedemonstrates that “abstinence works”).
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That makes the new survey data even more eye-opening,since changes in school districts do not represent a top-down policy change initiated by lawmakers. Rather, thegrowth in more responsible approaches to sex educationis a result o changes enacted by individual communitiesand schools districts, as well as improvements made toexisting abstinence programs. This report demonstratesthe signicant progress these courageous healtheducators, parents and school board members havemade over the last three years as well as how much workremains to be done.

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