Politics Trumps Health and Education in Texas Textbook Adoption

State Board of Education Rejects Most Proposed Health Textbooks That Included Information on Sex Education Topics


AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas State Board of Education voted today to adopt new health textbooks from just one publisher after critics attacked all of the textbooks for content — even in optional units — that addressed topics related to sex education. Digital textbooks for elementary and middle school offered by three other publishers failed to win approval.

Rocio Fierro Pérez, political coordinator for Texas Freedom Network responded with the following:

“This week offered yet more evidence that politics continues to trump education and teaching the truth in Texas schools, even when it comes to the health and lives of our kids. The votes this week make clear that the Texas State Board of Education remains very much in the textbook censorship business. It’s frustrating to see the health and education of millions of Texas students continue to be held hostage to the politics of ignorance and exclusion.”

Following the board’s preliminary rejection Tuesday of all middle school and high school textbooks submitted for health classes in Texas, publishers on Wednesday offered a variety of changes in an effort to win adoption on a final vote. Publisher Goodheart-Willcox, for example, stripped out all coverage of PrEP and PEP, medications that are very effective in preventing infection by HIV but that critics said students shouldn’t learn about. It also weakened content addressing the effectiveness of condoms. The publisher’s middle school and high school textbooks, which were the only ones to win adoption by the state board today, never included information on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The board refused to adopt any of the other textbooks, from three publishers, submitted for use in elementary and middle schools. Most of the content on human sexuality and reproduction in the proposed middle school and high school textbooks appears in optional units school districts may choose to share or withhold from students, depending on local policies. But sex education critics demanded that the state board reject them anyway.

The state board voted in November 2020 to adopt new curriculum standards — the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS — for health that for the first time addressed contraception in middle school instead of just high school. Critics of sex education attacked that coverage in the textbooks anyway. They also attacked two textbooks — from Human Kinetics and Lessonbee — for acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people. Some school districts, such as Austin and Fort Worth, have moved in recent years to include teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in sex education instruction.

Polling consistently shows a large majority of Texans think teaching students about contraception along with abstinence is common sense. It also shows they agree that teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity will help lessen bullying and harassment of LGBTQ kids.

Quick Takes

  • The board considered five products, one for elementary school, three for middle school, and one for high school. The textbooks for Grades 7-8 and high school included optional units that address sexuality and reproduction, leaving it to local school districts to decide whether to share that information to students.
  • The board adopted only the middle school and high school submissions from Goodheart-Willcox.
  • All four of the middle school and high school digital textbooks under consideration emphasized abstinence repeatedly while also addressing contraception and STI prevention in optional units.
  • 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 middle school and high school textbooks address the importance of consent and respecting boundaries in relationships, which abstinence-only activists criticized.
  • Two of the middle school textbooks acknowledged that LGBTQ people exist. One defines sexual orientation and gender identity and urges respect for people who are LGBTQ. The board rejected both.

The board had to defer final approval of the science TEKS to December due to an error in today’s agenda creation.


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.