‘Dumpster Fire’: Republican Texas State Board of Education Members Surrender to Anti-Sex Ed Hysteria, Move to Reject All Proposed Health Textbooks for Grades 6-12

by TFN

Some Republican Board Members Offer to Reconsider Before Friday Final Vote if Publishers Agree to Censor Their Textbooks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUSTIN, Texas – The State Board of Education’s move on Tuesday to reject all health textbooks proposed for middle and high school students in Texas represents a big step backward for responsible sex education and a shameful surrender to fearmongering, Texas Freedom Network President Val Benavidez said today.

“This is an educational dumpster fire,” Benavidez said. “Too many board members simply surrendered to extremists who see nothing but a conspiracy to sexualize students in a state where those students say they’re already having sex. Our youth, including those who identify as LGBTQ, need a truth- and science-based education that helps them make healthy life decisions. But we heard instead the same hyperbolic rhetoric and fearmongering that has dominated decisions by this dysfunctional board for decades.”

In a series of preliminary votes on Tuesday, the adoption of one high school and three middle school digital textbooks for health classes failed to win a needed majority. Nearly all Republicans on the GOP-dominated board opposed their adoption. Some Republicans who voted to reject the textbooks offered to reconsider if publishers censor sex education information they don’t like before a final vote on the issue Friday.

Public arguments from critics were echoes of the same attacks on sex education in proposed health textbooks in Texas for decades, which continue to ignore the existence of LGBTQ people

Last year the state board approved new health curriculum standards that call for teaching students in Grades 7 and 8 as well as high school about contraception in addition to emphasizing abstinence. But a Republican majority on the board at the same time repeatedly voted against any state standard that called for teaching students that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves to be treated with respect.

Some districts choose to address this information in classrooms. Two of the publishers this year addressed sexual orientation and gender identity in their proposed health textbooks. Most of the content on sex, sexuality and contraception was relegated to optional units outside the core digital texts, leaving it up to local school districts to decide what information to share with students.

Quick Takes on the Textbooks

  • All four of the middle school and high school digital textbooks under consideration this week emphasize abstinence but also address contraception and STI prevention.
  • All four textbooks acknowledge the reality that most of the students will at some point in their lives become sexually active, if they are not already, and need information that helps them make healthy decisions. In fact, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Study, nearly two-thirds of Texas high school seniors say they are already having sex. More than half of new STIs in Texas occur among young people ages 15-24.
  • All four textbooks address the importance of consent and respecting boundaries in relationships. Abstinence-only activists have attacked teaching about consent, arguing that this would lead students to think they have permission to engage in sex.
  • Two of the middle school textbooks acknowledge that LGBTQ people exist. One defines sexual orientation and gender identity and urges respect for people who are LGBTQ.

What Happens Next
Some Republican board members who voted to reject all of the textbooks argued they might reconsider if publishers delete passages they don’t like before the final Friday vote. Meanwhile, Texas Education Agency staff pointed out that, if the board adopts no textbooks, schools would have to figure out on their own what materials to buy to cover health curriculum standards the board adopted last year.

Two in-depth studies from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund in 2009 and 2017 found that many abstinence-only materials used by local school districts rely on fear, shaming, gender stereotypes, and other myths and misinformation. They virtually ignore LGBTQ people.

###

The Texas Freedom Network (tfn.org) is a grassroots organization of religious and community leaders and young Texans building an informed and effective movement for equality and social justice.