The Texas House Public Education Committee is about to take up two key bills that would bring important reforms to what the state’s public schools teach about sex education. Click here for a live video webcast of the hearing. (Then click on LiveStream 6 for the Public Education Committee meeting.) TFN Insider will also be providing updates.
6:00 – Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is now laying out House Bill 741, which would require Texas public schools to teach comprehensive — or “abstinence-plus” — sexuality education if they teach about sexual health at all. Rep. Castro notes that Texas has the nation’s third-highest rate of teen births, a statistic that itself argues for major changes to the state’s predominantly abstinence-only approach to sexuality education. (Parents would still have the right to opt their children out of such classes.)
6:08 – Rep. Castro notes the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s groundbreaking report on sexuality education in Texas public schools.
6:22 – Dr. Jan Realini, president of the Healthy Futures in San Antonio and member of the Texas Medical Association Council on Public Health, offers powerful testimony for arming teens with medically accurate information about how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
6:44 – David Wiley, a professor of health education at Texas State University and co-author of the TFN Education Fund’s two-year study on sex education in Texas public schools, is now testifying. Prof. Wiley decries the “conspiracy of silence” surrounding sex education and calls for honest, medically accurate information in public schools.
7:08 – Social conservatives are testifying and are upset (of course) with the bill. They see no need to change the existing statute on sex education — regardless of soaring teen birth rates in Texas.
7:13 – State Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, doesn’t much like the bill. “Do we teach safe smoking?” “Do we expect our kids to remain abstinent from drinking and driving?” We expected this kind of silliness.
7:15 – Kyleen Wright of Texans for Life Coalition claims abstinence-0nly is working and that teen birth rates are down. She fails to mention demographic changes over the last two decades that help account for that. In any case, they’re now rising — and Texas is already near the top. Wright: We are not for censoring information, but we want parents’ rights to be respected. “Parents have spoken loud and clear during their School Health Advisory Councils” that they want abstinence-only education. Moments ago, she noted that the TFN Education Fund report was accurate in noting that more than 94 percent of school districts teach abstinence-only. But now she refuses to acknowledge another key finding: those School Health Advisory Councils are a sham. They aren’t meeting and aren’t making recommendations. She also ignores public opinion polling that shows parents overwhelmingly support comprehensive, abstinence-plus education.
7:56 – OK, we’re betting this is the first time the words “anal intercourse” and “clitoris” have ever echoed off the walls of this hearing room. Just sayin’.
7:57 – A health education graduate student notes that too many undergraduates are simply ignorant about basic information regarding human sexuality, including anatomy.
7:58 – Members of the Texas Freedom Network’s Youth Leadership Council are lined up to testify this evening. These young people from Texas colleges and high schools are working to promote responsible sexuality education. We’re very proud of the courage and passion they bring to their activism on this critical issue.
8:34 – Abstinence-only program providers aren’t particularly happy with Rep. Castro’s bill either. Is it because the bill would require that their programs teach medically accurate information instead of exaggerating claims of contraceptive failure rates in an attempt to persuade students that condoms and other methods of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are virtually useless?
8:48 – Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is now testifying in support of Rep. Castro’s bill. She’s walking committee members through some key findings from the TFN Education Fund report about what’s really happening in classrooms regarding sex education.
8:54 – Jonathan Saenz from the Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family-Texas is now testifying. Saenz says he has no problem with teaching medically accurate information on sex education. So should we expect him to support HB 1567 by Rep. Michael Villarreal, D-San Antonio? HB 1567 would require that information taught in public schools about condoms and contraception be medically accurate — a requirement that would force a lot of changes to many abstinence-only programs.
9:19 – The committee is about to hear testimony on Rep. Villarreal’s bill.
9:24 – This bill is just common sense. If schools are going to teach anything about contraception, shouldn’t the information be scientifically accurate? Of course. Yet efforts to pass such a measure in past legislative sessions have failed because social conservatives opposed them.
9:28 – TFN’s Kathy Miller testifies in support of the bill. She notes that the TFN Education Fund study found a high rate of factual errors in abstinence-only programs used in Texas public schools.
9:40 – Kelly Wilson, co-author of the TFN Education Fund report and an assistant professor of health education at Texas State University-San Marcos, is also testifying in support of Rep. Villarreal’s bill. She offers some examples of nonsense her study found being taught in sexuality education programs. (Example: sexually, men are like microwaves that heat up quickly, while women are like crockpots that take a while longer.)
9:45 – Kyleen Wright of Texans for Life Coalition is testifying against the bill. Is anyone surprised? So much for common sense. “First and foremost, I’m for parents’ rights.” Does she think any parents wants their kids taught medically inaccurate information?
9:49 – Wright: “You offend parents far less by giving less information than (by) giving (teens) more.” Good grief. We can’t remember a more absurd argument for keeping teens ignorant.
9:52 – Anyone doubt that in the next few days we’ll see over-the-top, hair-on-fire e-mails from far-right groups shrieking that some lawmakers want to expose children to all form of sexual perversion?
10:09 – Dr. Jan Realini (Healthy Futures) is testifying in favor of the bill. Dr. Realini is a physician working in public health and explains what she sees working with teens who are pregnant or who have sexually transmitted diseases. Too many, she says, have been kept ignorant of the medically accurate information they needed to protect themselves.
10:12 – Testimony on these sex ed reform bills is winding down. The committee will leave the bills pending.