The State Board of Education’s refusal even to acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people in new health curriculum standards is a tragic failure to help ensure that Texas public schools are safe and inclusive for all students, Texas Freedom Network President Val Benavidez said today.
“LGBTQ students, just like everyone else, deserve to learn in settings where they feel respected and safe,” said Benavidez. “It’s hard for board members to say they support that if they refuse to adopt standards that simply acknowledge LGBTQ people even exist.”
In a series of votes on Wednesday, the board’s Republican majority voted down proposed changes to draft health standards that would have stressed respect for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and called out anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment. Republicans rejected similar proposed changes in September as well.
The votes came after three public hearings — in June, September and Tuesday — in which hundreds of Texans called on board members to adopt health standards that are LGBTQ-inclusive. Research shows that nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and nearly 45 percent because of their gender expression. Polling this year also shows that 75 percent of registered voters in Texas, including 65 percent of Republicans, agree that “to help prevent bullying of LGBTQ youth, Texas public schools should include standards around cultivating respect for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.”
The board on Wednesday also rejected a proposed addition to the draft health standards about the importance of affirmative consent before sexual activity. Following the votes on these and other amendments, the board gave preliminary approval to the draft standards. The board on Friday is set to give final approval to what would be the first overhaul of health curriculum standards in Texas in more than two decades.
In addition, the board on Tuesday chose not to delay adoption of new science standards for high school and direct curriculum teams to improve coverage of climate change.
“Virtually all climate scientists agree that overwhelming evidence shows human-caused climate change is a global emergency, but most of these board members clearly see no urgency here,” Benavidez said. “It would be mystifying if we hadn’t seen this board, so many times over the years, put politics and ideology ahead of facts and expertise.”
Two reports in the last two months — one from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund and the National Center for Science Education and a second from the Aspen Institute — have given Texas poor marks for how its science standards address climate change. In fact, Texas was one of just six states earning an F for how their science standards deal with the issue.
A final vote on science, in addition to the health standards, is set for Friday.
The Texas Freedom Network is a grassroots organization of religious and community leaders and young Texans who support equality, social justice and strong public schools.