SBOE, Publisher Still Censoring Health Textbooks

SBOE, Publisher Still Censoring Health Textbooks

Publisher Agrees to Remove Data on Homosexuality from Teacher’s Editions

April 29, 2005

AUSTIN Publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston has deleted from the teacher’s editions of its new middle school health textbooks estimates of the percentage of the population who may be gay, apparently under pressure from State Board of Education (SBOE) members.

The SBOE voted today to accept the changes submitted by the company. The books will be used in Texas classrooms beginning this fall.

“Nearly six months after board members approved these textbooks, politics continues to shape the information the books contain,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “This is yet another reason why lawmakers should reject proposed legislation that would give free rein to SBOE members to censor information for political and personal reasons.”

House Bills 220, 973 and 2534 would establish subjective standards (such as “errors of omission”) for textbooks and give the SBOE authority to determine whether those standards have been met, Miller said. The Public Education Committee heard testimony on H.B. 220 and H.B. 2534 this past Tuesday.

The original passage in Holt’s three middle school health textbook teacher’s editions included the following sentence: “Surveys indicate that 3 to 10 percent of the population is gay.” After board member Gail Lowe questioned the accuracy of that statement, Holt submitted the following change: “Surveys indicate that 2% to 9% of the population have had some same-gender sex at some point in their lives. Combined data from the General Social Survey and the National Health and Social Life Survey, spanning the years 1988-1996, reveal that 2.5% of men and 1.1% of women identified themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”

An April 7 e-mail from a Holt editor to Texas Education Agency officials said “it appears that there are some doubts about the finality of the change, and whether it has been appropriately approved.” The publisher requested approval to delete the reference completely.

Publishers, including Holt, agreed in November to the demand by board member Terri Leo that their textbooks define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Holt refused another demand by Leo that it change a teacher’s edition passage to say “homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use, and suicide.”

The state board voted on November 5 to approve high school health textbooks that include no state-mandated information on contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases except through abstinence until marriage.