Without a doubt, the best investigation into what is being taught in Texas classrooms regarding sex education was undertaken in 2009 by the Texas Freedom Network. Following is a summary of their publication, Just Say Don't Know.

Two major changes have occurred since this report was released: (1) the State Board of Education removed the health section of the TEKS, removing the requirement to teach sex education in Texas public schools. (2) One of the most used curricula in Texas, Worth the Wait by Scott & White, has included a lesson on the use of contraception. There is, however, no evidence to show that this lesson is actually being taught in the classrooms.

 

  • At the beginning of every semester in one of my undergraduate health classes at Texas State University, I ask my students, “How many of you feel you received quality sexuality education from either your parents or school?” Typically, I see two or three hands out of 50 students. When I ask these 18- and 19-year-old students, the vast majority of whom are products of Texas public schools, why they didn’t learn this important information, their explanations have become a familiar litany: “We skipped the sex ed chapter in high school.” “Our teacher just told us ‘don’t do it.’” “We had speakers come to school and tell us condoms don’t work.” I thought I was no longer capable of being surprised by the ignorance among our students. Then last year a sincere male student asked aloud, “What is my risk for cervical cancer?” Clearly, ignorance surrounding sexuality and health is a problem among young people today.

  • During the course of my career as a health educator, I have also spent a good deal of time with colleagues who teach sexuality education in public high schools around Texas. Many of these teachers will admit they are terrified of the subject and often worry they will “get fired” for teaching basic information about disease prevention and sexual health. They live in fear of the dreaded complaint from an administrator or parent. Many express frustration at being unable to speak out about sexuality when they know of many students who are involved in risky sexual behaviors.

  • More than a decade ago, the Texas Legislature made the decision to promote abstinence over any other method of sexuality education in Texas schools. Lawmakers revised the Texas Education Code in 1995 to explicitly mandate that abstinence from sexual activity always be presented as the preferred choice of behavior in relationships for unmarried persons of school age. While the law does not prohibit other approaches to sexuality education, state officials have been almost completely committed to an abstinence-only philosophy. This commitment is reflected in the amount of abstinence-only federal funding the state receives – more than $18 million in 2007 alone, more than any other state in the country.

  • While state policy and curriculum standards establish general guidelines, each local board of trustees decides how schools will teach about human sexuality. In addition to state-approved health textbooks, districts may also utilize programs created by outside organizations, guest speakers from outside agencies and their own “homegrown” materials for sexuality education.

  • After extensive review of this collection of materials, we can now say with certainty the following about the state of sexuality education in this state. Abstinence-only programs have a stranglehold on sexuality education in Texas public schools. An overwhelming majority of Texas school districts – more than 94 percent – do not give students any human sexuality instruction beyond abstinence. Additionally, just over 2 percent simply ignore sexuality education completely. What is left is a miniscule 4 percent of Texas school districts that teach any information about responsible pregnancy and STD prevention, including various contraceptive methods.

  • We discovered that SHACs are not fulfilling their state-mandated role of providing community input into sexuality education instruction decisions for local school districts. More than 80 percent of school districts could not produce any formal SHAC recommendations on sexuality education instruction.

  • … the quality of many abstinence-only programs used in Texas classrooms is shockingly poor. Classroom instruction is plagued by blatant errors of fact mixed with misleading information. Curricular materials commonly rely on scare tactics and shaming to teach students about sex. Outdated gender stereotypes and unconstitutional religious content find their way into instructional materials.

    • misstatements downplaying the effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs);

    • presenting exaggerated, “worst case” scenarios in attempts to scare students away from having sex;

    • a lack of information about screening and treatment for STDs;

    • shaming messages that suggest sex is somehow “dirty” and “immoral,” while unmarried people who are virgins are somehow “better” than those who have had sex;

    • undocumented/uncited statements presented as “facts”; and

    • religious messages (in some cases promoting religious discrimination) mixed with abstinence-only instruction.

 

What is Not Taught in Texas Sex Ed

  • … more than 3.7 million Texas students currently attend school in a district where they will not encounter even the most basic information about how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

  • While the public information request each district answered for this study did not require an explanation for their decisions, many district officials seemed more than happy to share. Avoidance of controversy is the most common reason for censoring discussion of sexuality education. The superintendent from a small district in north Texas commented that “sexuality education is a very controversial issue” in his community. Unfortunately, the potential for controversy in the community is reason enough for some districts to skip the subject altogether. Recalling his biology teaching days, the superintendent admitted, “I know this is the cowardly way out, but when I taught biology I never got to the anatomy part.”

  • Often the decision to withhold information about sexuality education is more explicitly linked to perceptions about prevailing religious or political opinion in the community. An official from a school district in the Texas Panhandle was speaking for more than just his small district when he said: I’m not quite sure what to do about this [public information] request. We’re a small, conservative school in the Panhandle. We don’t cover any of this information. If we did, I don’t think I’d be the principal out here very long. We’re a conservative, Christian community, and the parents handle that. I know the state says we have to cover this information, but we fly under the radar.

  • A fax from a school district east of San Antonio echoed this sentiment from a Catholic perspective: [Our town] is a small community, made up of mostly Catholics. Because of this, the ISD does not teach sex education, other than our school nurse who talks with 6th-grade girls about puberty. . . . We do have a high school textbook, however, we always skip the chapter regarding sex education.

  • An interim superintendent at a small Central Texas district had the most interesting response in his e-mail: [We are] a small school with 301 students in grades PK to 12. Most of these kids live on a farm or have animals they feed and care for. They get a pretty good sex education from their animals. For the record, he was not alone. Another central Texas superintendent also reported that farm animals provide reliable sexuality education for students in his district.

  • We found it interesting that some officials seemed to interpret “sexuality education” as mostly a “how to” discussion. Given that Texas has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation, clearly many of our young people already know “how to.” What those young people clearly do not know is information about making responsible decisions with regard to pregnancy and disease prevention – a key component of effective sexuality education programs.

  • In a candid, yet disturbing, conversation with Texas Freedom Network Education Fund staff on October 31, 2007, a superintendent from a small district in west central Texas commented: We’re a small rural school district, and we don’t follow laws we disagree with. Drug problems only arose when we started teaching about drugs, and if you teach kids about sex, kids will start having sex. He further noted that they “don’t have any problems with teen pregnancy” in the district. The reason he gave for such well-behaved teens is that “kids get smacked if they don’t behave.” He concluded without a trace of irony that he “would be surprised if there was a sixth-grader (in his district) that had been kissed.”

  • What does it mean to say that 94 percent of Texas schools adhere to a strict abstinence-only message? Abstinence-only sexuality education programs present abstinence as the only choice of acceptable behavior for unmarried youth.

  • … abstinence-only programs “rarely provide information on even the most basic topics in human sexuality such as puberty, reproductive anatomy, and sexual health.”22 The curricular materials, speakers and resources Texas districts provided for this study confirm this conclusion. In most of these materials, basic information about sexuality is omitted altogether. There is little to no information provided about anatomy and physiology, puberty, menstrual/ovulation cycles, planning of pregnancies, stages of pregnancy, signs and symptoms of STDs, how and where to be tested for STDs, effective methods of preventing pregnancies and STDs, and other related topics. The typical Texas classroom replaces a full discussion of these subjects with a mixture of personal opinion disguised as facts and character education and other self-esteem programs substituting for true sexuality education instruction.

  • By far the most dangerous deficiency in abstinence-only programs is their well-documented aversion to any information about contraception and family planning. In most abstinence-only school districts, students learn nothing about the advantages and limitations of different methods of birth control, how to make contraception decisions, questions to ask a doctor about birth control, and similar issues. In fact, messages about family planning are either omitted or discussed in a negative tone.

  • Scott & White Worth the Wait: 168 districts (17.0%); Aim for Success: 150 districts (15.2%); Choosing the Best: 89 districts (9.0%); W.A.I.T. Training: 53 districts (5.4%); Me, My World, My Future (Teen Aid): 28 districts (2.8%).

  • Aim for Success, an abstinence speaker bureau based in Dallas, typically provides no information about basic anatomy and physiology, puberty, menstrual and ovulation cycles, pros and cons of various methods of birth control or any other basic sexuality education information. Instead, Aim for Success speakers provide motivational “pep talks” for abstinence, breezing past foundational information. Speakers refer to contraceptives – if they do so at all – exclusively in terms of their failure rates without providing key information as to what commonly causes contraceptives to fail (user error).

  • Scott & White Worth the Wait – another popular commercial program that is the most widely used curriculum in Texas school districts – does include some of the basic components of sexuality education (such as brief sections on anatomy, puberty and menstrual cycles). Yet the curriculum discusses only the drawbacks and limitations of birth control while vaguely and briefly suggesting STD testing.

  • In short, a student in one of the 96 percent of Texas secondary school classrooms that either ignore sexuality education (2.3 percent) or have a strict abstinence-only program (94 percent) graduates without any classroom instruction on: condoms or any other form of contraception (exceptpossibly in terms of failure rates, which are regularly distorted or exaggerated – see Finding 3); basic family planning information, such as benefits and limitations of various birth control methods, stages of pregnancy and spacing of births; and signs, symptoms and treatment options for sexually transmitted diseases.

  • After all, the overwhelming majority of people become sexually active at some point in their lives, whether at 17, 27, 37 or even later. The real question is whether our young people will learn the life-protecting information they need from reliable or unreliable sources.

  • Approximately 29.4 percent of Texas school districts report that state-approved health textbooks are the sole source of sexuality education information in their schools.

  • An examination of the health textbooks clearly shows that these books do not address TEKS 7I (“Analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods including the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases [STDs], keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage.”) in an even remotely satisfactory manner. In addition to ignoring condoms and other methods of responsible birth control and disease prevention, the state-approved textbooks also contain factually inaccurate information.

  • Glencoe’s Health – the most widely used health textbook in the state – provides a list of “High-Risk Behaviors and STDs” that includes the following passage: Barrier protection is not 100 percent effective in preventing the transmission of STDs, and it is not effective at all against HPV – the human papillomavirus. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing STDs. First, students will find no definition of barrier protection anywhere in the textbook. In addition, the statement that barrier protection is “not effective at all against HPV” is simply inaccurate. Most alarming, however, is the statement that even “protected sex” is a high-risk behavior – a reckless claim that flies in the face of mainstream public health advice and could discourage young people who choose to become sexually active from taking any precautions at all.

  • Lifetime Health from Holt, Rinehart and Winston provides a perfect illustration of the dangers of substituting one of these related skills (such as choosing good friends and developing appropriate decision-making skills) for sexuality education in a section titled “8 Steps to Protect Yourself from STDs.” None of the recommended steps includes using barrier protection or other mentions of condoms or disease prevention. The textbook does, however, suggest that students “get plenty of rest” so that they make better decisions. This would be laughable if protecting students from STDs were not such a serious issue.

  • It is a common misperception among teachers and administrators that “Texas is an abstinence-only state” (with “only” being the overriding directive). That is simply false. Neither the education code nor any other statute requires schools to present abstinence to the exclusion of other information or pedagogical strategies. According to state guidelines, abstinence is to be emphasized, but districts are not restricted to abstinence-only instruction.

 

Local Input through School Health Advisory Councils is a magnificent failure

  • SB 1 [1995] was a “rewrite” of the Texas Education Code (TEC) and included the requirement that every school district establish a School Health Advisory Council (SHAC). SB 1 included general guidelines for sexuality education instruction, but lawmakers also charged SHACs with providing recommendations to local boards of trustees for such instruction. Though the original role of SHACs was to focus exclusively on sexuality education, the Legislature has amended the statute several times, expanding the responsibilities of these councils to include other components of the coordinated school health program.

  • .. the actual decision about what to teach in sexuality education is made by the local school board – supposedly with the advice of the SHAC – under the concept of “local control.” This governing structure is an unusual mixture of top-down mandates with local decision-making.

  • In the 14 years since SB1 established SHACs, the state has not engaged in a comprehensive examination of how – or even if – SHACs are fulfilling their statutory obligation to provide local input on sexuality education decisions. After reviewing information turned over by Texas school districts for this study, however, we now know that the ideal of local input on sexuality education is largely a myth.

    • Almost two-thirds (64.7 percent) of school districts indicated that their SHACs had not discussed the topic of sexuality education in the previous three years. (This was the case even though public schools purchased new textbooks for health classes in early 2005, a decision that ideally should have involved significant input from SHACs.)

    • Worse, 80.5 percent of school districts could not produce any formal SHAC recommendation on sexuality education instruction, regardless of date. This means more than three-quarters of Texas school boards passed policies, adopted curricula and contracted with providers without any formal advice from their local SHACs.

    • Almost a quarter (24.8 percent) of districts reported no formal policy at all governing sexuality education. Teachers in these schools must address the sensitive topics surrounding human sexuality with no guidance – or protection – from a policy adopted by the local school board.

  • A primary duty of a SHAC is to recommend the number of hours of instruction, appropriate grade levels and methods of instruction for human sexuality education. However, even among the minority of school districts that have a functioning SHAC, it is rare indeed to find examples of informed, evidence-based recommendations regarding sexuality education instruction.

  • The TEC includes no requirements that SHAC members have a background in health education, sexuality education, medicine, child development, curriculum evaluation or any other professional background or training that helps prepare the council to make informed recommendations to the local board of trustees. … We found numerous examples of SHAC members making recommendations about curriculum selection, pedagogical strategies, and age-appropriateness of material without any evidence of formal training in these areas. The lack of concrete guidance in the law, combined with the absence of trained local members, often results in SHAC recommendations that are inconsistent, contradictory and not based on current research in effective sexuality education programs.

  • Eanes ISD (in Austin) provides a good example of how a lack of training on local SHACs can result in inconsistent and even conflicting messages in a single school district. The of districts have Eanes SHAC recommended no formal policy at all governing for use two documents that sexuality education. directly contradict each other. One document, “Condoms: “What’s Still at Risk” from the Medical Institute of Sexual Health, makes this misleading statement: Condoms don’t reduce your chances of getting infected with HPV, though they may slightly reduce your risk of getting genital warts or cancer.” Yet the same SHAC also approved an article from Current Health 2 magazine that states: “Today’s condoms, though, are extremely effective at reducing the risks of pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).” This sort of inconsistency in content is not uncommon in Texas school districts.

  • Our research also found that SHACs sometimes act in ways that put the discomfort some teachers might feel with the topic of sexuality education above the health interests of students. One such case is in Electra ISD in North Texas. “Presenters and teachers have the right to avoid discussion of any subject which makes them uncomfortable,” according to a recommendation from a 1998 SHAC meeting in that district. … Potentially, a teacher could find any information about pregnancy or STD prevention to be objectionable or otherwise uncomfortable for him or her personally. The implication for such a policy is that students receive instruction based not on established curriculum standards for the topic, but rather on the personal comfort level of the teacher.

  • In a worst-case scenario, a SHAC recommendation can actually put the school in legal jeopardy. In Holliday ISD in North Texas, for instance, the SHAC recommended Debbie Koen’s Hot Topics program to the local school board. The SHAC reviewed an outline for this presentation that instructed students to consider “Whose Opinion Counts: Self, God, and Parents.” It also included a section on “Gods [sic] standard for dating.” The obvious religious content in this material should have raised a red flag for SHAC members. Instead, they unanimously recommended it to the board and potentially placed the district at risk of a First Amendment lawsuit.

  • Likewise, the SHAC minutes at Joshua ISD indicate that two members attended a presentation entitled Wonderful Days: Sexual Purity Presentation. Based on a report from these members, the SHAC recommended the district also include this program. Wonderful Days is an explicitly Christian organization whose materials are full of biblical references intended for a sectarian religious audience, as even a quick check of its materials makes clear. The Web page for its programs trumpets: “The young girls in our nation have an essential role. They are extra-special. If they fail, then future families and our nation will fall. If they succeed, families, communities, and our nation will stand and will stand strong. They are a nation’s last line of defense! Need proof? Leviticus 19:29.”

  • Finally, only a handful of the state’s districts produced SHAC minutes or other materials that demonstrated a familiarity with current research into effective sexuality information programs. Time and again we read through the deliberations of functioning SHACs that, with no apparent awareness of any problem, recommended programs full of factual errors, misleading information about contraception and STDs, inappropriate religious content and all manner of other flaws.

  • … the Fort Worth ISD SHAC should be noted for its exemplary work in dealing with sexuality education. In its unanimous recommendation to the school board dated May 23, 2006, the Fort Worth ISD SHAC notes: “The current program, while providing information relating to all relevant areas of sexuality and personal responsibility, promotes abstinence as the most appropriate and effective means of contraception, but also provides relevant and necessary information regarding other means of contraception and disease prevention in a thoughtful and non-judgmental way. The council believes it is imperative that the high school age children in the district be armed with as much information as possible in relation to these matters. The council respects the rights and interests of other interested parties, and believes that all parents should have the right and ability to discuss these matters at home with their children. Having been charged with protecting the “best interests” of the children of the district as a whole, however, the council encourages and recommends [that] the Fort Worth Independent School District continue to teach a comprehensive sexuality curriculum, including instruction regarding contraception.”

  • Another example of a well-functioning SHAC can be found in Canutillo ISD, located outside of El Paso in far west Texas. What is especially impressive about Canutillo ISD is the extensive evaluation process the SHAC undertook before recommending sexuality education programming to the school board. Records show that in 2005 the SHAC conducted a formal review of 31 separate sexuality education programs and curricular materials, evaluating them on a number of criteria including student interest, quality of material for students and parents, and cultural sensitivity. At least three SHAC members evaluated each resource, marking it “approved” or “disapproved.” Some of the comments were particularly insightful, such as a review of a lesson from Scott & White Worth the Wait entitled “Planning for a Healthy Marriage,” which observed: “Too many unsupported generalizations; Based on scare tactics; Insensitive to children from single parent homes.”

  • The Hays CISD, a fast-growing suburban district south of Austin, provides an excellent example of thorough deliberation in recommending an evidence-based sexuality education curriculum and policy to the school board. In two documents from June 2007 and October 2008 entitled “Human Sexuality Recommendations,” the Hays SHAC recommended the following guidelines for sexuality education instruction in the district: “Ensure – through evaluation by a team of administrators and SHAC representatives – that the individuals who teach health are qualified and willing to teach the human sexuality education portion of the course. Ensure that the individuals who teach health understand the importance of highlighting abstinence as the attractive choice during the human sexuality education portion of the course. Require intensive training (a minimum of two days) for these individuals based on the “Putting What Works to Work” guidelines for curriculum. “Abstinence Plus” is the preferred approach.” The strong emphasis demonstrated by the Hays SHAC on ensuring teachers receive the necessary training to cover this material is unique among all of the districts evaluated.

  • The majority of school districts have either not established a SHAC or can provide little or no evidence at all of a fully functioning SHAC. Of those districts that have a functioning SHAC, only a small percentage have produced a recent recommendation to the local school board about sexuality instruction. Of the minority of districts with SHACs that address sexuality instruction, materials turned over by many of those districts demonstrate little familiarity with contemporary, evidence-based research into effective sexuality education instruction.

  • In 2003 the Ector County Independent School District’s board of trustees in the West Texas city of Odessa voted to add an optional lesson on contraception to the district’s abstinence-based curriculum. Students could take the one-day lesson only with parental permission. The trustees’ approval came after being informed that Ector County’s rate of teen pregnancies ranked second among the state’s 254 counties. Just two years later, trustees reconsidered the issue. The district’s SHAC voted to affirm the policy of offering the contraception lesson. A local physician agreed, telling trustees, “We have a body of information that can help protect our children. If we withhold that information, and they go out and get an STD, we’re responsible for that.” But abstinence-only supporters were organized and vocal. “We cannot teach abstinence and contraception,” a local minister warned trustees. “They contradict each other.” To cheers from abstinence-only supporters crowded inside the meeting room, the trustees then voted to cast aside the recommendation of the SHAC and throw out the district’s optional one-day lesson on contraception.

 

Factual Errors and Lies in Texas Sex Education

  • After analyzing sexuality education materials turned over by school districts under the Texas Public Information Act, we were able to document a factual error in 41 percent of school districts in the state. This means more than two out of five Texas secondary schools teach children demonstrably incorrect information in sexuality education instruction. As shocking as this figure may be, it actually understates the extent of misinformation in Texas secondary classrooms.

  • Public health officials have recently sounded the alarm about an ongoing “war” against condoms that was carried out by the Bush administration and proponents of abstinence-only sexuality education as a way to promote their programs.

  • Condoms:

    • Inaccurate information about condoms is by far the most common type of factual error in sexuality education materials used in Texas. Our data show that 40.1 percent of school districts utilize materials that perpetuate at least one distortion about condoms – and many districts utilize curricular materials that include multiple errors. Examples range from silly to appalling, but most share a common purpose and likely effect – discouraging young people from using condoms.

    • Often misinformation about condoms is delivered directly and without subtlety. Abstinence speaker Pam Stenzel says: “Students, condoms aren’t safe. Never have been, never will be.”

    • The Teens are Saying kNOw (TASk) program is a Midland-based abstinence program – sponsored by a local Christian crisis pregnancy center – used in 19 Texas school districts. Several of these districts turned over a TASk handout, presumably distributed to students, stating forthrightly (and without any citation): “Condoms offer virtually no protection against the most common STI’s.”

    • A curriculum entitled No Apologies: The Truth About Life, Love, and Sex, produced by the conservative faith-based group Focus on the Family and used in five Texas school districts, misleadingly notes: “In order for condoms to be effective, they have to be used consistently and correctly 100 percent of the time. Is that a realistic expectation for teens?”

    • Just Say Yes is an abstinence speaker bureau based out of Dallas. Twelve Texas districts indicated that they offer a Just Say Yes program for students. One of their presenters, Howard Flaherty, tells students: “Long about now, some kids might be saying, “Man, I hope this guy talks to us about condoms.” Ok, I will. That’s another big fat lie from my generation to yours, and here’s the lie. The lie suggests that if you hand out a condom to young people that you’re going to lower teen pregnancy and disease. Not true. So when you’re taking away the natural consequences or trying to, and not giving people the message of personal responsibility, what you do is you mess them up worse. It’s a lie.”

    • Baird ISD takes students through an exercise entitled “Leaky Balloon” intended to “illustrate the risks of condom failure.” At the end of the exercise, one unlucky boy is left holding a deflated balloon with a pin-hole. The curriculum directs the teacher to: “Explain that at least one of every fifty condoms does not meet leakage standards. Tell him that today he was just a little embarrassed because he got the leaky balloon, but had he been depending on the balloon not leaking to save his life, he would have been more than embarrassed. (i.e. If he had been the one to get a leaky condom, it could have meant he was at high risk or even death.)”

    • Brady ISD utilizes a number of skits in its sexuality education instruction, including a skit titled “Jumping Off the Bridge” that concludes with the following explanation: “Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, “Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads – they may protect you some?” Knowing that STDs can kill and that there is at least a 30% failure rate is like helping the teen kill them self [sic]. It is a lie to call condoms “safe sex.” If there is a 30% failure rate of condoms against life threatening diseases, then calling them a way to have “safe sex” is like “helping” someone commit suicide by giving them elbow pads to “protect” them or finding them the safest spot from the bridge to jump.”

    • The overwhelming reason for contraceptive failure is user error. Yet materials in Texas schools regularly highlight the highest possible “typical use” failure rate with no accompanying explanation, a subtle half-truth that has the effect of misleading students about the true effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy.

    • A curriculum entitled Family Accountability Communicating Teen Sexuality, or FACTS, (used in 20 Texas school districts) illustrates how statistics that are technically correct can be manipulated to disparage condoms. After noting that the “typical failure rate” for condoms is 14 percent, the curriculum explains to students: “Out of 100 sexually active women, if a condom is used, 14 of the women will experience an unintended pregnancy during the course of one year.” What FACTS and most other abstinence-only materials we saw do not explain to students is that the 14 percent unintended pregnancy rate is largely due to user error – errors that are more likely to occur when no one tells students about proper condom use. Students are left to assume that condoms are not reliable, when in reality it is often condom users who are unreliable. When condoms are used consistently and correctly, the risk for unintended pregnancy drops to 2 percent. As an analogy, car crashes would certainly increase dramatically if there were no instruction on how to drive properly.

    • … the rate of pregnancy for couples using no method of birth control for one year is 85 percent. Even inconsistent and incorrect condom use cuts that rate to 15 percent. The real tragedy of exaggerating condom failure rates is the message it gives to students – “don’t bother using something that does not work.”

    • … in a widely used curriculum (89 districts) called Choosing the Best Path, a fill-in-the-blank worksheet matter-of-factly states: “because latex condoms are made of rubber, they can _____ [break] and _____ [slip off].” This statement is misleading, if not outright false. According to a study in Consumer Reports, “with correct use, a condom will break as little as 2 percent of the time, authorities believe, and will slip off as little as 1 percent of the time.”

    • Much of the misguided propaganda against condoms we encountered in Texas schools stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of risk reduction. Condoms are not “inadequate” or “flawed” because they do not eliminate 100 percent of the risk associated with pregnancy or STDs; instead condoms should be seen as tools for risk reduction. As a comparison, air bags in cars reduce mortality by 63 percent, while lap-shoulder belt use reduces mortality by 72 percent. Motorcycle helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries and 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries. Though none of these public safety measures is “100 percent effective,” all are mandated by law in some fashion in most states. Whether based on ignorance or a deliberate attempt to mislead students, abstinence-only programs in Texas schools too often dismiss or malign condoms and other contraception because they are not “100 percent effective” – a specious and misleading argument.

  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases:

    • An astounding 38.9 percent of districts utilize curriculum materials or presentations that contain inaccurate information about sexually transmitted diseases. Instruction about HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV) is especially prone to error or misrepresentation in Texas classrooms, though no STD is exempt from distortion.

    • 23.6 percent of Texas school districts utilize instructional materials with inaccurate information about HIV, much of it intended to convince students that condoms are ineffective in preventing transmission. A number of abstinence-only curricula repeat the decades-old and widely discredited “HIV is so small it passes through a condom” canard. The FACTS curriculum (used in 20 districts) provides one common version of this argument: “Any imperfections in the contraceptive not visible to the eye could allow sperm, STD or HIV to pass through the latex. Notice below the actual size difference between a human sperm cell and a variety of sexually transmitted disease organisms including Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If a sperm cell can get through, how much more can the HIV virus only 1/450th the size of a sperm!”

    • The Why kNOw? curriculum (used in 21 Texas districts) repeats this myth with a misleading classroom activity. The teacher constructs an eighteen-foot long “Speedy the Sperm©,” which is designed to be exactly 450 times the size of a penny. After informing students that “the HIV virus is 450 times smaller than a human sperm,” the teacher is instructed to hold up the penny and say: “If the condom has a failure rate of 14% in preventing Speedy© from getting through to create a new life, what happens if this guy (the penny) gets through? You have a death: your own.”

    • Though found time and again in presentations and materials used in Texas, this argument ignores years of research showing that condoms are “highly effective” in providing protection against the transmission of HIV. The CDC states clearly: “Laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of HIV.”

    • A handout turned over by Baird ISD includes material that dates from the late 1980s. Among other anachronistic statistics, this document includes the following conclusion purportedly from a Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan of New York Hospital: “There is a growing concern among many health officials that the protection afforded by condoms [against AIDS] has been exaggerated. A recent inspection by the Food and Drug Administration of more than 50,000 condoms revealed that at least one in 50 failed to meet leakage standards, the imported brands fared the worst. Although lab studies have demonstrated that latex condoms block the entry of the AIDS virus, there is no scientific evidence that they do so during intercourse. Furthermore, researchers note condoms have a 10% failure rate in preventing pregnancy and the protection they provide against AIDS could be considerably lower, since the virus is many times smaller than the human sperm.” … Teaching students that there is no scientific evidence that condoms block HIV is not just outdated; it is incorrect and dangerous.

    • The abstinence curriculum WAIT Training (used in 53 districts) includes a handout on HIV/AIDS for students. The exercise has three columns labeled “High Risk,” “At Risk” or “No Risk.” Each column has a bulleted list of activities. “Sharing needles for injecting drugs, steroids/vitamins/etc.” and other behaviors are correctly listed in the “High Risk” column because they involve exchange of bodily fluids. A review of the curriculum by SIECUS, however, notes that the “At Risk” column contains many misleading assertions. The column lists “French kissing” as an “At Risk” activity. Although open mouth kissing could potentially involve the transmission of blood, the risk in this behavior is characterized by the CDC as “very low.” The column also includes the words “tears,” “sweat” and “saliva.” Suggesting that coming in contact with these fluids puts an individual “at risk” is simply untrue. The CDC states clearly: “Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV.”

    • Austin Lifeguard program materials incorrectly note: “There is virtually no evidence that condoms reduce the risk of HPV infection at all, though they may slightly decrease the number of people who go on to get warts or cervical cancer.” Lifeguard is used by 10 Texas districts.

    • Slides from an Aim for Success presentation about HPV state: “Condoms are ineffective!” And “Condoms – little to no benefit.” And “As far as condoms go, there is plenty of evidence to suggest they don’t do any good.”84 Though it is impossible to know if these particular slides are used in every presentation, Aim for Success materials or presentations appear in 150 Texas districts.

    • “Sex Still Has a Price Tag” video by abstinence speaker Pam Stenzel (used in 3 districts) states: “Ladies, you contract chlamydia one time in your life, cure it or not, and there is about a 25 percent chance that you will be sterile for the rest of your life.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 percent of cases of untreated chlamydia lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and approximately 10 percent of acute cases of PID (not all PID becomes acute) lead to infertility. Stenzel also fails to note that these problems can be prevented with treatment for the infection.

    • Scott & White Worth the Wait curriculum (168 districts) tells students that pelvic inflammatory disease is “caused” by chlamydia and gonorrhea. Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to PID. The program gives students little information about testing for STDs, which could alert them to the need for treatment.

    • Austin Lifeguard program materials (used in 10 districts) incorrectly note: “About a third of in vitro fertilization is necessary due to infertility caused by an STD (usually chlamydia or gonorrhea).” The program does not distinguish between the causes of infertility and the need for in vitro fertilization. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about one-third of infertility cases are due to male problems, one-third to female problems, and one-third due to complication with the couple (and within this last group, 20% is unexplained).

    • WAIT Training (used in 53 districts) tells teachers: “[Students] need to know that, when used every time, condoms at best only provide a 50% reduction in the transmission rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.” A study in the June 2005 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that consistent and correct condom use provides a 90% reduction in the risk of gonorrhea and 60% reduction in the risk of chlamydia infection.

    • Baird ISD includes an unreferenced fact sheet on STDs that states with bold certainty: “A young person who becomes sexually active at or before age 14 will contract an STD before graduating from high school. This is no longer the exception, but the rule.” The authors of this report are aware of no verifiable studies or other data to support this wild assertion.

    • In the course of discussions about sexually transmitted diseases, these matrials neglect the opportunity to stress the value of getting tested for STDs.

  • Crazy “Facts” in Texas Sex Ed:

    • “If a woman is dry, the sperm will die. If a woman is wet, a baby she may get!” From Wonderful Days abstinence-only program, in a section entitled “Natural Fertility Regulation.” Used by 3 Texas districts.

    • “An average 30-year-old has had 27.2 sexual partners.” Presentation by Pam Stenzel titled “Sex Still Has a Pricetag,” used in three Texas districts. National Center for Health Statistics, males 30-44 years of age reported an average (median) of 6-8 female sexual partners in their lifetimes. Among women 30-44 years of age, the median number of male sexual partners in their lifetimes was about four.

    • “Schools put themselves at great economic risk in regard to liability issues [when they teach] ‘safer sex.’” From the WAIT Training program , used in 53 Texas districts. (This attempt to frighten teachers away from teaching about contraceptives is not substantiatedwith a reference to any lawsuit or other legal action against a school or teacher that provided instruction on condoms. The authors of this report are not aware of any such legal challenge.)

    • “The divorce rate for two virgins who get married is less than 3%.” From the Life Enrichment Center in Midland, Tex.; materials adapted from TASk program, used in 19 Texas districts. (No source is cited for this bold assertion. The authors of this report are aware of no verifiable studies or other data to support this statistic.)

    • “Research has shown that this hormone [oxytocin] imprints a close bond to one’s present sexual partner. The bond without the lifetime commitment usually backfires, often causing possessiveness and jealousy and making the dating relationship worse rather than better. When the person normally doesn’t marry that pre-marital sex partner, this makes a later permanent relationship less intimate.” From an abstinence-only curriculum titled Sex Respect: The Option of True Sexual Freedom, used in six Texas school districts. (No source is cited for this claim. The authors of this report are aware of no verifiable studies or other data to support it.)

    • “Fact: Sexually active teens are more likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide. Sexually active teens are less likely to be happy, more likely to be depressed, and more likely to attempt suicide. Teenage girls who are sexually active are three times more likely to be depressed and three times more likely to attempt suicide than girls who are not active. Teenage boys who are sexually active are more than twice as likely to be depressed and are almost ten times more likely to attempt suicide than boys who are not active.” “FAQ” from WAIT Training Web site, used by 53 Texas districts. (These statistics are based on a biased secondary analysis of published studies.)

    • “There are over 29 common STD’s that today’s teenagers are facing. 5 of them are incurable. A generation ago there were only 2 and both were curable!” From the Life Enrichment Center in Midland; materials adapted from TASk program, used in 19 Texas districts. (This uncited reference is incorrect. Multiple STDs have existed for years. What has changed from the previous “generation” is the ability to detect these STDs, as well as an increased emphasis on STD testing among the general public.)

 

Fear and Shame in Texas Sex Education

  • An emphasis on blatant scare tactics, guilt and embarrassment in relation to sexuality appears in classrooms across the state in multiple ways: curriculum resources produced by national or local groups, videos, presentations by guest speakers, teacher-developed materials and student assemblies. These tactics seem to make up the primary – and in some cases the only – instructional strategies for most abstinence-only programs used in Texas secondary schools.

  • Baird ISD, for instance, utilizes a handout that screams in all capital letters: FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN SEX NOW IS LIKE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH ALL BUT ONE CHAMBER FULL!

  • Death is, in fact, not an uncommon theme when it comes to sexuality education in Texas. The Why kNOw curriculum, which is used in 21 Texas districts, tells sixth-graders: “WARNING! Going on this ride could change your life forever, result in poverty, heartache, disease, and even DEATH.”

  • … an abstinence-only video entitled “No Second Chance” (used in three Texas school districts) directly connects death to sex before marriage. The video features a scene in which a boy asks, “What if I have sex before marriage?” The evangelical educator in the video replies, “Well, I guess you’ll have to be prepared to die. And you’ll probably take with you your spouse and one or more of your children.”

  • A video by abstinence speaker Pam Stenzel (used in three Texas districts) provides an excellent example of the distortions common to fear-based instruction about sex and HPV: You’ve found this girl you love, I mean this is it, all those other girls, they were just messing around. This is the real thing. Pull out that diamond, look her in the eyes, if you’re really cool guys you get on your knees, you say marry me, by the way I’ve got genital warts, you’ll get it too, and we’ll both be treated for the rest of our lives in fact you’ll probably end up with a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death but marry me.

  • Failure to make a distinction between treated and untreated STDs – particularly infection with HPV – is a common fear tactic in many materials and presentations in Texas secondary schools. Abstinence-only programs also typically fail to provide information, other than abstinence, about preventing and receiving treatment for STDs.

  • In Ector County ISD (Odessa) and Midland ISD, for example, the Midland/Odessa Area AIDS Support (MAAS) program falsely tells youth that they (ages 10-15) are in the “highest risk group for HIV/AIDS.” This message is coupled with the dire warning: When we [parents] were their age, we had no STDs to worry about that could kill us. Today, we list 7 in their world that can actually kill them....They constantly receive the message that “everything is acceptable today.” But what they are not being told is that if they do what is so accepted today THEY COULD DIE!

  • Baird ISD utilizes a student crossword puzzle exercise that includes the clue: “AIDS is not curable and will result in ______ [death].”

  • In Brady ISD, a skit called “Jumping off the Bridge” discourages the use of condoms as protection from STDs, grossly exaggerating their failure rate in an effort to discredit their effectiveness at all: Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, ‘Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads—they may protect you some?’ Knowing that STDs can kill and that there is at least a 30% failure rate of condoms against life threatening diseases, then calling them a way to have ‘safe sex’ is like ‘helping’ someone commit suicide by giving them elbow pads to ‘protect’ them or finding them the safest spot from the bridge to jump.

  • In typically over-the-top fashion, the FACTS curriculum (used in 20 school districts) puts it bluntly: You know people talk about you behind your back because you’ve had sex with so many people. It’s so empty too. Finally you get sick of it all and attempt suicide.

  • … in their zeal to scare students into a positive behavior (i.e. refraining for sexual activity), time and again programs used in Texas classrooms exaggerate and even misrepresent the facts. The larger issue in each of these examples is the accuracy of instructional materials and credibility of educators. Effective education in any subject is impossible if the student does not trust the validity of materials and instruction.

  • … demonizes those who fail to remain abstinent, while presenting those who refrain from sex as emotionally and morally superior.

  • A list of Frequently Asked Questions on the WAIT Training Web site (WAIT Training is used by 53 Texas districts) recycles a misleading “fact” from the conservative Heritage Foundation: “Fact: Sexually active teens are more likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide. Sexually active teens are less likely to be happy, more likely to be depressed, and more likely to attempt suicide. Teenage girls who are sexually active are three times more likely to be depressed and three times more likely to attempt suicide than girls who are not active. Teenage boys who are sexually active are more than twice as likely to be depressed and are almost ten times more likely to attempt suicide than boys who are not active.”

  • An educator with Education Service Center 12 in Wichita Falls, who actually consults with numerous school districts and trains teachers involved in teaching sexuality education, provides a typical example of this type of instruction. In his educator trainings, he asserts that sexually active students are “the topic of gossip and lies.” The abstinence-only curriculum WAIT Training suggests that young people who are not sexually active have the “ability” to develop their self-control and create a value system, indicating that sexually active youth do not possess this ability.

  • The Sex Respect curriculum used in six Texas school districts teaches that sexually active youth lack self-control, give in to peer pressure and have low self-esteem.134 Conversely, students who are not sexually active are assigned a morally superior status in which they can be expected to develop socially, emotionally and intellectually. The No Apologies curriculum used in five Texas districts sums up this perspective: Destructive behaviors such as violence, dishonesty, drug abuse and sexual promiscuity arise from a common core—the absence of good character.

  • Most of the sexuality education materials used in Texas schools barely touch on sexual abuse and rarely distinguish between wanted and unwanted sexual behavior. As an example, Baird ISD utilizes a handout entitled “Are You Contracepting Yourself?” that includes “sexual violence” and “aggression toward women” as potential consequences of deciding to become sexually active.

  • Some school districts, such as Burleson ISD, make this point very clearly. A PowerPoint presentation includes a slide titled “Sex outside of marriage starts a chain reaction.” The “chain reaction” includes: sexual intercourse, guilt that comes with it, self deception (rationalizing) and desertion (we feel separation from the people that we let down because we are doing the forbidden: e.g. parents, future spouse, friends that are counting on you to be strong for them).

  • Various abstinence-only programs, such as WAIT Training and Real Options for Women, use a variation of an exercise in which students are instructed to apply clear tape, representing virginity, to their arms. In the WAIT Training version of this exercise, students are instructed to rip off the tape, signifying the breakup of a sexual relationship. The teacher then holds up the tape and shows that it is no longer clear: “He left some very special things on this tape. Skin, hair, cologne, DNA.” When the tape is applied to another student’s arm, students are told that they can see how the “bonding strength” of the tape has been diminished. Teachers are then instructed to ask students: “If this process gets repeated too many times, do you think it will affect this person’s (hold up the tape) marriage?”

  • The most vivid example of this shame-based instruction comes from Brady ISD, which utilizes a skit where students are told that wrapped presents represent a couple’s virginity. The female’s present, representing her virginity, has been: “torn up, symbolizing the possible contamination of STDs and the emotion (sic) weight of past relationships. The boy’s present is beautiful because he hasn’t given his away, so there is no risk for contamination.” A narrator concludes the skit by telling students that “whole families have died from AIDS because the mother or father had the disease before they got married and passed it to their spouse and then to the children at birth.” The connotation of “sex” and “contamination” is clear: virginity is clean, while sex is not. But the skit offers hope of a sort: “Even if you have had sex in the past, you can have a ‘secondary virginity’ and save what is left of yourself for marriage.”

  • In Choosing the Best PATH, an exercise called “A Mint for Marriage” has students pass around an unwrapped peppermint patty. Once the candy is returned, the teacher asks if a student would like to eat it. The teacher is instructed to ask: ““Why is this patty no longer appealing?” The answer: “No one wants food that has been passed around. Neither would you want your future husband or wife to have been passed around. “Is there any way to make the food usable again? (Put it back in the wrapper, refrigerate it, and the bacteria will die. It will be almost like new.) Say that this is similar to renewed virginity, when a person who has been sexually active decides to be abstinent until marriage.”

  • Finally, for reasons unknown, the FACTS program (used in 20 Texas districts) denigrates children from divorced families. The Teacher’s Edition of that curriculum states, “Children of divorce are 5 times as likely to be suspended from school; 3 times as likely to need psychological counseling; and are absent from and late for school more.” Setting aside the fact that no citations are provided for these “facts,” it is unclear why students should be made to feel badly about having parents who are divorced, something over which they have no control. Apparently the purpose of this statement is to sanctify the “nuclear” family and warn students well in advance of marriage about the “evils” of divorce.

 

Stereotypes And Biases Based On Gender And Sexual Orientation

  • … as with the No Apologies curriculum developed by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. No Apologies was originally developed for use overseas in countries like Singapore, but is now included in public schools in this country, including five districts in Texas. It advises students: LADIES BE LADIES In another article, we talked about chivalry and knights and gentlemen being gentlemen. But there are two sides to every coin, so girls, we have to ask: Are you acting like the kind of lady who would attract such a knight in shining armour? Think about it. Maturity attracts maturity. Class attracts class. Ladies attract gentlemen.

  • WAIT Training (53 Texas districts) – Women need “financial support” and “family commitment.” Men need “domestic support” and “admiration.”

  • Why kNOw? (21 Texas districts) – “Women gauge their happiness and judge their success by their relationships,” while “men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.”

  • Abstinence speaker and Catholic apologist Jason Evert – whose materials or presentations are used in four Texas districts – is at least aware that he may “sound politically incorrect” when he states on his Web site that: a girl is out of place when she pursues. Likewise, the guy is out of place when he’s the one who has to be swept off his feet. We all know it. Just imagine a guy leaning over his balcony at night, blushing as he listens to a young lady serenading him from the garden below. It’s messed up!

  • The Web site for Austin Lifeguard (used in 10 districts) quotes the 16th-century Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther: Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

  • The No Apologies curriculum carries this idea of the dependent female to a disturbing conclusion: (T)he safest place for a woman to live is married to a man.

  • The WAIT Training curriculum – used in 53 districts – paints a similar picture of male vs. female sexuality: Sexually speaking, it has been said that men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots. What does that mean? Generally, men get stimulated more easily than women and women take longer to get stimulated. Men are visual responders and women respond when they feel connected and close to someone.

  • One particularly troubling gender stereotype recurs time and again in abstinence-only materials reviewed for this study – the depiction of the female as the primary sexual gatekeeper. This stereotype is based on the idea that boys can not control their sexual urges and, as a result, responsibility for controlling sexual activity falls primarily – or even exclusively – to girls.

    • A PowerPoint presentation from Burleson ISD (source unidentified) provides a typical example of this message. A slide entitled: “Women are in charge” instructs students: The woman sets the tone of the relationship. A man will respect the boundaries if the woman is serious about the limits. The man may have to set the limit but usually the woman is in charge.

    • Messages like this are problematic because they disregard or downplay male responsibility to set appropriate boundaries – or even respect boundaries set by the female partner. This approach can be interpreted by students as “letting the male off the hook” when it comes to responsibility for sexual behavior.

    • The Why kNOw? curriculum, for instance, includes a story about a young couple named Stephanie and Drew who are trying to remain abstinent until marriage. In this material, which is used in 21 Texas districts, students are told that Stephanie is too affectionate and wears tight clothing. Drew “likes her a lot, but lately keeping his hands off her has been a real job!” Stephanie has clearly communicated to Drew that she does not want to have sex – “her actions, however, are not matching her words.”173 There are several problems with this exercise. First, as with the Burleson ISD material, the male is assigned a lesser responsibility for controlling his personal behavior. Beyond this, however, Stephanie has acted appropriately and communicated her desire to avoid sexual intercourse – she said “no” – yet the curriculum still blames her for aggressive male sexual behavior. Examples like this send a clear message that “boys will be boys” and are ultimately not responsible for their actions.

    • The Just Say Yes program – used in 12 districts around the state – comes dangerously close to crossing [the] line [of blaming women for men's aggressive sexual behavior]: Girls, taking into consideration that guys are more easily sexually turned on by sight, you need to think long and hard about the way you dress and the way you come on to guys...If a guy is breathing, then he’s probably turned on...How can you tell a girl is an easy target for a guy?...By the clothes she wears...A girl who shows a lot of skin and dresses seductively fits into one of three categories: 1) She’s pretty ignorant when it comes to guys, and she has no clue what she’s doing. 2) She’s teasing her boyfriend which is extremely cruel to the poor guy! 3) She’s giving her boyfriend an open invitation saying, “Here I am. Come take me.”

  • Sexual orientation is rarely discussed in most of the materials and curricula used by Texas school districts. On one level, the authors of this report were pleased to find that blatantly discriminatory or homophobic materials are relatively rare in Texas sexuality education instruction. The discouraging aspect of this situation, however, is that virtually all curricula, lessons or activities submitted for this study assume that all students are heterosexual. In fact, based solely on materials used in sexuality education instruction, someone might conclude no lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) students attend public schools in Texas. This is obviously not the case. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs or opinions about sexual orientation, public schools, by definition, deal with the public and must teach all students that walk through the doors, regardless of sexual orientation.

    • Though examples of clear discrimination were not common, we did discover a few districts that include discriminatory content toward gay and lesbian students: 41 districts in the state – or 4.1 percent. Some districts have policies that explicitly address sexual orientation in a negative, even mean-spirited manner.

    • Northside ISD (in San Antonio) operates under a policy that reads: Shall not represent homosexuality as a normal or acceptable lifestyle; shall, when homosexuality is to be discussed in conjunction with education about sexually transmitted diseases, provide information of a factual nature only; and shall not explicitly discuss homosexual practices.

    • The policy at Edinburg CISD includes this same language, but goes a step further: Instruction shall not represent homosexuality as a normal or acceptable lifestyle. Homosexuality shall be discussed in conjunction with education about sexually transmitted diseases. Teachers shall provide information of a factual nature only, and shall not explicitly discuss homosexual practices. Students should be informed that homosexual acts are illegal in Texas and highly correlated with the transmission of AIDS. Students shall be directed to seek value-oriented information regarding homosexuality from their parents/guardians. (It should be noted that “homosexual acts” are not illegal in Texas.)

    • [In] the current Health and Safety Code for the state of Texas. In the section relating to “Educational Program About Sexual Conduct And Substance Abuse,” the code specifies that: “Course materials and instructions relating to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include: Emphasis, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.” In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code and similar laws elsewhere that criminalized sexual intimacy between consenting individuals of the same sex are unconstitutional.

    • David Gordon, an education specialist with a state Education Service Center, utilizes a handout that includes advice on how to answer “controversial questions.” The worksheet recommends that homosexuality should be labeled “a [sic] inappropriate decision that is made by some people.” This statement, based on personal prejudice, is made worse by the fact that Mr. Gordon actually consults with numerous school districts (13, according to information collected for this report) and trains teachers who are involved in teaching sexuality education.

    • The FACTS curriculum – used in 20 Texas districts – does not deal with sexual orientation extensively, but the brief section that does provides problematic commentary on this issue: Whether transmitted by genes or acquired through the environment, sexual identity is not fully established until the late teens or early twenties.... Young persons may sense affection and even infatuation for a member of the same sex. This is not the same thing as ‘being’ homosexual. Any same sex ‘sexual experimentation’ can be confusing to young persons and should be strongly discouraged.

    • The Rural Abstinence Education Coalition (used by 15 districts), for example, has school districts sign a letter of intent outlining the program. The letter includes a “Summary of Classroom Instruction” that states the following: (1) teach that abstinence from sexual activity outside the context of marriage is the expected standard for all school-aged children; [...] (12) teach that “marriage” is defined as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and a wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

 

Religion in Texas Sex Education

  • According to materials returned for this report, 9.5 percent of Texas secondary school districts include inappropriate religious content in their sexuality education instruction. Religious messages are communicated through student handouts and exercises, curricular materials, videos, Web resources to which students are referred and speaker presentations (sometimes even delivered by local clergy). Not surprisingly, the particular expression of religion that dominates in Texas secondary schools is Christianity, primarily beliefs held in fundamentalist Protestant traditions. In fact, our research did not turn up a single incidence of reference to a non-Christian faith in sexuality education materials used in Texas.

  • A number of Texas school districts include content that is explicitly and pervasively religious in nature. In some cases, inclusion of religious material seems due more to a failure by district officials to carefully vet guest speakers and their curricular materials than a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate students.

  • The Why kNOw? curriculum (used in 20 Texas school districts), for instance, contains numerous references to religion and religious organizations, even quoting a scriptural passage from the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:4).

  • 18 districts around the state utilize videos or curricular materials produced or distributed by the conservative Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family, known for its involvement in “culture war” political issues and its Christian child-rearing materials.

  • Elkhart ISD, where students are referred to the Web site www.truelovewaits.com. True Love Waits program is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, which is owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention. Among other activities intended to encourage abstinence until “biblical marriage,” True Love Waits promotes a virginity pledge: to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.

  • most of the religious content we discovered is “homegrown.” Such locally produced or teacher-created material – mostly unattributed to any author or source – tends to be more obviously and unapologetically sectarian than religious content in larger programs.

  • Consider a handout used by Perrin-Whitt CISD entitled: “Things to look for in a mate.” This document, presumably distributed to students, counsels young people searching for a mate to consider: How they relate to God: A. Is Jesus their first love? B. Trying to impress people or serve God? [...] Personal Discipline: F. Attitude 1. Willing to obey God, or hesitate to obey 2. Humility – willing to accept correction, put other first-Phil 2:3 3. Industrious – Proverbs 31:17, “Work is not what we do for a living, but with do with our living [sic]”

  • Teaching students that a dating partner must be approved by God or conform to a biblical standard of morality is a fairly common theme in the religious materials used in Texas sexuality education.

  • The outline for an abstinence program called Hot Topics – produced by Debbie Koen and used in three north Texas districts – instructs students to consider “Whose Opinion Counts: Self, God, and Parents.” It also includes a section on “Gods [sic] standard for dating.”

  • In fact, some programs assume or impose an explicitly “Christian” view of sexuality and sexual mores. The most shocking example of this is a program called Wonderful Days, which is used in three Texas school districts in the Fort Worth area. Wonderful Days is a marriage promotion and abstinence-only program created by Roger Norman, a Texas lawyer, who unapologetically describes himself as a member of the religious right. Materials used by this program read more like Sunday school lessons than a course on sexuality education. Hardly a page can be found that does not include multiple references to Bible verses, invocation of Christian principles, even attempts to proselytize students with the Christian plan of salvation. The “Resources” portion of the Wonderful Days Web site (which the program touts as a key component of student instructional materials) gives the following advice to young people: We can be born again of The Almighty Himself. We then take on His character with all of its resultant self-control, benefits, and great responsibility. You will be amazed when the “sperm” of His Spirit connects with the “ovum/egg” of your spirit and you become a “new person” with His character. How? Read about it in your Bible: John 1:12: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of Yahweh, even to those who believe in His name. Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of Yahweh. Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of Yahweh is eternal life in Messiah Yahshua our Lord.John 3:16: For Yahweh so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Romans 10:9-10: that if you confess with your mouth Yahshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that Yahweh raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

  • Another example of a pervasively religious program used in Texas public schools is Motherwise, a curriculum intended for use in Christian churches to “equip mothers worldwide with God’s truth that transforms the family.” The mission of Motherwise makes clear its religious purpose: Our ministry has a global mission to embrace, educate, and encourage families in absolute surrender and total abandonment to Jesus Christ. Edna ISD reported that a Motherwise presentation is a part of their sexuality education instruction, presented by a minister from a local Baptist church.

  • Worse, the minutes from the November 2, 2006, meeting of the Edna ISD School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) noted approvingly, “At the HS our Community Resource person is currently taking pregnant students or students who are new mothers to ‘Mother Wisdom’ [Motherwise] classes at First Baptist Church.”

  • Brady ISD turned over a series of what appear to be student handouts that lay out a scriptural case for abstinence from sexual activity. Many of these handouts are structured in a “Question and Answer” format, and the tone and content clearly presumes a Christian audience. Though the sources for these documents are not anywhere identified, they have been lifted verbatim from the Web site www.gotquestions.org. The Web site describes its purpose as follows: “Got Questions Ministries seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by providing Biblical, applicable, and timely answers to spiritually-related questions through an internet presence.”201 Here is a typical example of the type of information presented in these materials: Question: “What does the Bible say about sex before marriage / premarital sex?” Answer: Along with all other kinds of sexual immorality, sex before marriage / premarital sex is repeatedly condemned in Scripture (Acts 15:20; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18: 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes abstinence before marriage...Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations that God approves of (Hebrews 13:4). Sex before marriage has become so common for many reasons. Far too often we focus on the “recreation” of sex without recognizing the “re-creation” aspect. Yes, sex is pleasurable. God designed it that way. He wants men and women to enjoy sexual activity (within the confines of marriage). However, the primary purpose of sex is not pleasure, but rather reproduction... Abstinence is God’s only policy when it comes to sex before marriage. Abstinence saves lives, protects babies, gives sexual relations the proper value, and most importantly honors God. Question: “Can you give me some Christian relationship advice?” Question: “Are we supposed to be actively looking for a spouse, or waiting for God to bring a spouse to us?” Question: “What does the Bible say about dating / courting?” Question: “What is an appropriate level of intimacy before marriage?” Answer: ““...anything that even ‘hints’ of sexual immorality is inappropriate for a Christian....I, personally, would strongly advise a couple to not go beyond holding hands, hugging, and light kissing before marriage.”

  • All of the Brady documents present abstinence as a command from God and the failure to remain abstinent as a sin. (“The Bible tells us that any kind of sex before marriage is immoral – it’s a sin. Matthew 15:19; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 5:3”) Even more troubling, these materials impose upon students a strict religious test for dating. Not once, but three separate times the handouts send the message that dating partners must share a religious affiliation or common beliefs in order to constitute a healthy or moral relationship: Imperative to choosing to be in a relationship is finding the right person. The Bible tells us not to become unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)... A man should look for a woman who not only claims to be a Christian, but who also gives evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Is this person a Christian, meaning has he or she been born again (John 3:3-8)? God tells us, as believers, not to become unequally yoked by marrying an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). For a Christian, this is the time where he or she would find out if their potential marriage partner is also a believer in Christ. The Bible warns us that believers and unbelievers should not team up, because those living in the light (of Christ) and those living in darkness cannot live in harmony (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

  • A number of Texas school districts utilize speakers in their sexuality education instruction whose relevant affiliation is not with a health or educational organization; rather, their primary affiliation is religious. Here are a few examples of religious speakers with which districts contracted to provide sexuality education instruction: Jason Evert – “full-time apologist with Catholic Answers, the nation’s largest lay-run apostolate for apologetics and evangelization.” (Lindsay, Bay City, Alvin and Flour Bluff ISDs) Terri McLaughlin – education coordinator for the faith-based anti-abortion lobbying group Texans for Life (Boles ISD) Lyndy Phillips – identified by district as a Christian motivational speaker; ordained minister and served over 13 years as a full-time youth and associate pastor. (Channing ISD) David Crain – Christian musician and speaker: “As a speaker, David’s message is always delivered in a way that entertains while drawing the listener into a deeper relationship with Christ.” (Grape Creek ISD)

  • Dublin ISD reported a list of approved “character education” presenters, which included ministers from several area churches (three Baptist churches and a Church of Christ). Utilizing clergy to facilitate sexuality education presentations appears to be a common tactic of the Austin LifeGuard Character and Sexuality Education abstinence-only program.

  • Another example of a religious organization that markets its abstinence-only materials to public schools is Midland/Odessa Area AIDS Support (MAAS), utilized in Midland and Ector County ISDs. MAAS does not hide its religious mission: Founded in Midland, Texas in 1991, MAAS quickly evolved into an abstinence-based, and Christ-centered AIDS education ministry reaching out to area high school students and their parents, attacking misconceived notions of disease, and potentially deadly sexual practices, at the source.

  • As an example, when district officials in Lewisville ISD could not answer our requests for additional information about the materials they submitted, they actually forwarded our requestto the youth pastor at a local Assembly of God church.

  • Documents from Bay City ISD note that Holy Cros s Catholic Parish paid for the deposit to bring Catholic apologist Jason Evert to the high school to give an abstinence presentation. Grape Creek ISD provided facilities for an abstinence program, as the middle school report to their SHAC on April 4, 2006, notes: Sexual abstinence presentation called ‘Teens Are Saying Know’ by the Women’s Coalition from Midland. This was done over the course of three days during the Enrichment classes. Boys were in the ‘Rock’ building at Grape Creek Baptist Church while the girls were in the sanctuary.

  • Decisions about sexuality education in La Grange ISD are apparently not only made by the SHAC and school board, but also a group of local ministers. The SHAC minutes of August 24, 2004, state: He [chair] explained that our human sexuality program is abstinence based and any changes to it go through the Health Advisory Committee as well as the Ministerial Alliance and the Board.

  • Likewise, SHAC minutes of December 14, 2005, in San Marcos CISD note that the SHAC was willing to make a positive recommendation of a video entitled “Why Wait?,” pending a review of the video by “Pastor Burton.”

  • Our research found that 64 Texas school districts include materials or speakers from crisis pregnancy centers in their sexuality education instruction. Almost all of the crisis pregnancy centers that partner with Texas schools are affiliated with faith-based, Christian ministries.

  • The Cross Timbers Pregnancy Care Center in Stephenville, for instance, works with 12 districts to present its abstinence program called Truth For Teens. The organization has recently removed all religious references from its Web site, but as recently as July 2007, Cross Timbers proudly labeled itself “a Christian Ministry,” boasting: Our staff of employees and volunteers have come together from area churches to minister to those in need of our services. This group of men and women are all born again Christians...We believe many problems can be lessened or avoided altogether if we maintain a close contact with the Lord God.

  • Similarly, Wise Choices Pregnancy Center provides speakers for abstinence programs in five Texas school districts. Wise Choices has a mission statement that is “centered on giving young women power to make positive choices for their lives in a three-fold manner.” For their eternity – We desire to give the clients we encounter a one-on-one evangelist message of the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This can obviously impact her eternal destiny. For their physical bodies – We want to give these young women information regarding physical lifestyle changes that can improve their quality of life and impact her ability to end destructive patterns of living. For their baby – We show the young woman the first picture of the life she is carrying inside her through Ultrasound technology, God uses these images to save babies’ lives.

  • The outline of a seminar about TASk sponsored by Maranatha Pregnancy Center in Texarkana gives a window into how this can happen: Teenagers will be asked to make and [sic] abstinence commitment at the end of the seminar. She/he will be asked to sign a commitment card that says, “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, and my future mate to be sexually pure until the day I enter marriage.”

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