Proposed New Health Textbooks Show Progress on Sex Ed in Texas, Science Standards Still Weak on Climate Change
For Immediate Release
Aug. 31, 2021
AUSTIN, Texas – As the State Board of Education hears public testimony on proposed new health textbooks and science curriculum standards today, the Texas Freedom Network called on the state board to teach the truth on sex education and climate change.
“It’s time for the state board to put aside the culture wars that have driven its work for decades and put education ahead of politics,” TFN Political Director Carisa Lopez said. “Our schools must teach the truth to ensure Texas kids get an education that helps them make healthy decisions in their own lives and be informed voters who can help solve the problems they will inherit.”
A TFN Education Fund analysis of the five proposed new health textbooks for middle and high school (www.tfn.org/textbooks) reveals substantial progress over the controversial abstinence-only health textbooks adopted by a state board dominated by social conservatives in 2004. All five digital textbooks emphasize abstinence, but they also include factual information on condoms and other forms of contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. They also address the importance of consent and respecting boundaries in sexual relationships.
But just one of those five textbooks includes substantive information on sexual orientation and gender identity. Last fall a Republican majority on the state board astonishingly rejected multiple proposals to include in new health curriculum standards a requirement that students learn that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Jules Mandel, TFN’s outreach and advocacy strategist, called on the state board to reverse course and revise the curriculum standards to ensure health classes address the needs of all students.
“LGBTQ students, just like everyone else, deserve to learn in settings that are inclusive of their experiences and provide accurate information that is relevant to their health and lives,” Mandel told the board in public testimony. “An inclusive curriculum would help promote respect for others and help to reduce bullying, discrimination and the risk of suicide ideation among LGBTQ youth. We urge the board to reconsider last year’s rejection of this life-affirming and life-saving information in health classrooms.”
Polling shows a large majority of Texans support teaching students about contraception and STI prevention along with abstinence, as well as consent and sexual orientation and gender identity.
The state board is also considering draft revisions of science standards for K-8. In a national report card released by the TFN Education Fund and the National Center for Science Education last year (climategrades.org), Texas was one of just six states that received an F for how its state science standards address climate change. The current standards were adopted in 2009 by a State Board of Education dominated by climate change deniers, including a chairman who called the issue “hooey.”
The board last year and earlier this year adopted new standards for high school science classes, making modest progress on including better coverage of climate change, said Rocío Fierro-Perez, TFN political coordinator. But the K-8 drafts now under consideration address the issue just once in Grade 8.
“The reality of climate change is literally coming into our homes,” Fierro-Perez told the board in her testimony. “The February winter storm and power outage made that clear. We can’t wait another 10 or more years for another set of board members to get the standards right. Because when it comes to climate change, we are truly running out of time.”
The board will consider the science standards on first reading Wednesday and Friday. It is scheduled to take a final vote on those standards and the proposed health textbooks in November.
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.