Fellow Texans, it’s time for “the talk.” Maybe some of you had parents or trusted family members that sat you down and told you the basics about what to expect during puberty, how to protect yourself from STIs, or taught you about contraception. But what if you didn’t? And what if the information you received was outdated, inaccurate, or insufficient?
What about the sex and health education you received in school? If you went to a public school in Texas, you probably didn’t learn much. Our public schools have a decades-long history of giving students disinformation–or no information at all–when it comes to sex education, health, and safety.
If you’re wondering whether or not you got the full “talk,” this is a good week to read through some of TFN’s research and reports on sex education since May is Sex Ed For All Month!
We’re not new to giving Texans the lowdown on sex ed in our public schools. For years, we’ve used our #TeachTheTruth: Accurate Sex Ed campaign to advocate for comprehensive sexual health education that’s medically accurate, free of shame and judgment, and addresses the needs of all young people, regardless of their race, gender identity, or the zip code they live in.
In the past couple of years, we’ve successfully advocated for positive changes to the sexual health curriculum requirements for Texas public schools.
Just last year, a bill that requires school districts in the state to teach students in middle school and high school about family violence, child abuse, dating violence, and sex trafficking went into effect. Unfortunately, the original version was vetoed by Governor Abbott, who claimed he was preserving “parental rights.”
Now, parents have to sign a form allowing their children to receive this necessary education– worrying advocates that kids who need this education the most, particularly those experiencing abuse at home, won’t be given the resources they need.
It’s also impossible to talk about sex education without acknowledging the tie between sexual health and access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services. Right now, in the state of Texas, we have a near-total abortion ban– due to SB8, which outlaws this health care after six weeks. Most people can’t know that they’re pregnant so early–and it’s certainly more difficult to notice the signs of pregnancy if you’ve not received comprehensive sex education.
While access to contraceptives and sex education can never replace access to safe, legal abortion, giving teens the knowledge they need to prevent pregnancy is extremely critical right now. And the immediacy of this education is compounded by the impending Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. The ruling, which is expected to come down in June, will likely result in our judicial right to abortion disappearing. Considering many of the states that border Texas are also likely to outlaw abortion, regional access will be significantly diminished as well. In the event that Roe is overturned, Texas is expected to ban all abortions within 30 days of the ruling, making it a felony for doctors to provide full adequate care to pregnant people in the state of Texas.
Current sex education fails not only in talking about contraception methods outside of abstinence, but our present curriculum also does not meet the needs of our LGBTQIA+ students.
Any curriculum that neglects to address the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community– an area where we’re experiencing significant hurdles in Texas, is incomplete. Just this year, Attorney General Paxton and Governer Abbott directed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate the families of transgender children receiving medically necessary care – all in the guise of protecting against child abuse. This directive has worrisome implications for mandated reporters (which consists of every public school employee), and advocates fear for the sexual and mental health of LGBTQIA+ students in Texas.
In a 2019 report on sex ed in Texas, TFN found that 59.5% of LGBTQIA+ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 44.6% felt this way because of their gender expression. When we provide age-appropriate information about sexuality and health to children, especially LGBTQIA+ kids and teens, we’re helping to reduce stigma and shame, so they can thrive and have full, happy lives.
Clearly, there are a lot of reasons that we need to have “the talk” in Texas.
As an organization founded to counteract the far-right’s agenda in our public schools, TFN will continue to advocate for sex education and sexual health resources that meet the needs of ALL Texans.