Make Sex Education Reform part of the 2014 Elections Discussion
Visit your incumbent legislator and all other candidates for the seat to express your desire to see them support or even champion Sex Education Reform in Texas. See our article on visiting your Legislator, these instructions apply equally to any candidates you visit. During your meeting, make it clear that your support for their campaign is contingent upon their support for this issue.
Go to Town Halls, Forums & Debates. Below are several questions that you can use during a Town Hall, Forum or Debate between candidates to encourage the open discussion of Sex Education Reform during the 2014 Elections
- Texas has the third highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation, one of the highest levels of teen sexual activity, and the lowest rate of sexually active teens using condoms. That is to say, Texas teens are among the most at-risk teens in the nation for STDs and teen pregnancy. The only states that rival Texas in these rankings are states that are as devoted to abstinence-only sex education as us. States that use an abstinence-plus approach to sex education, teaching about contraception and using medically accurate information, consistently have the lowest rates of teen pregnancy and sexual activity in the nation. Is it time to admit that we are failing our teens, and expand sex education in Texas to include honest and factual information about human sexuality?
- I have often heard the claim that factual information on contraception and human sexuality in sex education will only encourage teens to have sex, giving them a "free pass." However, every study over the past decade has shown that teens that are taught an abstinence-plus curriculum, that is encouraging abstinence while also providing medically accurate information on contraception, have not only lower pregnancy rates, but lower rates of sexual activity and greater delay in first sexual experiences. Texas, however, has some of the some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and teen sexual activity not only in the United States, but the entire industrialized world. Should we not be providing the type of education to our students that has the best results?
Visit your Legislator
For general information on visiting your legislator, please see our Local Action information page.
- Go Together. The best way to get your legislator's attention on a topic is to bring as many of your fellow constituents (that is fellow citizens in your legislator's district) along to a meeting with your Legislator or staff member. The more people you have with you, the more of an impact you will have.
- Stick to the topic of Sex Education Reform. If you want to talk about other topics you can always come back for another meeting.
- Take literature with you. You can download our Sex Education Fact Sheet along with research and articles regarding the current state of Sex Education and the results of Sex Education programs around the nation.
- Be respectful. Sex Education is a sensitive subject. Most Texas legislators are religious or extremely socially conservative. Talking about Sex Education may be a shock to them. Be tactful and sensitive to this possibility when discussing Sex Education Reform. For example: âWe are destroying the futures of our youth with a corrupt system,â is bad. âWe need to provide our youth with the information they need to make informed, educated decisions both while in school and later in life,â is good.
- Remain calm and collected. It is unlikely that you will be met with rudeness by your legislator or staff, but such incidents have been known to happen. Because of the sensitive nature of Sex Education, some people may see your advocacy for reform as a challenge to their moral or religious system. While it is unlikely, there is the possibility that you will be accused of attempting to endanger or morally corrupt children. If this happens, remain calm and make your case that you simply want Texas youth to be provided with the information they need to make informed, educated decisions both while in school and after.
Become a Member of your SHAC
Every school district in Texas is required by law to have a School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).
A school district shall establish a local health education advisory council to assist the district in ensuring that local community values and health issues are reflected in the district's human sexuality instruction.
The council's duties include:
- recommending appropriate grade levels for human sexuality instruction;
- recommending the methods of instruction to be used by a teacher in human sexuality instruction education; and
- recommending the number of hours of instruction to be provided in health education.
- must include persons who represent diverse views in the community about human sexuality instruction;
- must include parents of students enrolled in the district as a majority of the council; and
- may include teachers, school administrators, students, health care professionals, members of the business community, law enforcement representatives, senior citizens, clergy, or other interested persons.
Each school district is responsible for appointing members of the SHAC independently. Because of this it is impossible to give you information about how to volunteer. Secular Texas recommends contacting the administration at your local school district to find out the current state of your district's SHAC and how members are appointed. If possible, volunteer to be on the council. If the council is currently full, submit yourself for consideration when the next seat is available.
This is especially important if you are a health professional or educator. According to the 2009 report by Texas Freedom Network, Just Say Don't Know, most SHACs around Texas make decisions based on their personal religious convictions or ideological hopes instead of evidence and the reality of current situation in Texas.
Of course, that is only for SHACs which are actually functional. According to Just Say Don't Know, many school districts either do not have functioning SHACs or have SHACs that are only nominally functional. If you find this to be the case in your community, we encourage you to lead the charge in having your school district develop a SHAC that is staffed with members who are able to make rational and evidence-based decisions on sex education.
Run for Your Local School Board
While the SHACs make recommendations on Sex Education curriculum â recommendations that are likely to be followed â it is still the school board of trustees that makes the final decision on any changes to the curriculum. It is also up to the school board to ensure that your district has a functioning SHAC and to appoint the members of the council. Because of this, the position that has the most direct influence over the SHACs is a school board seat. In this position you can ensure that qualified local citizens are members of the SHAC and, once they return reasonable and evidence-based recommendations for local sex education curricula, you can ensure that their recommendations will be accepted.
Running for your local school board is obviously a large task just to have a positive impact on Sex Education. However, being a member of your local school board gives you the ability to make reasoned and evidence-based decisions for an array of subjects that have to do with local education. In addition, there is the benefit of being a secular citizen with experience running for and holding public office, which we discuss in our article about Running for Local Offices.