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Texas Education Agency discusses new sexual education policy for the first time in 23 years

Posted at 11:53 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 00:53:52-04

For the first time in 23 years, Texas education officials considered a new statewide sexual education policy during a board meeting Monday.

The proposed new education policy includes teaching middle school students about birth control options beyond abstinence.

From teachers and parents to community advocates, the Board of Education meeting was a conversation about a policy that hasn't been revised in over two decades- sex education in Texas.

"Unfortunately now, Texas is becoming exceptional for other reasons. It has the eighth highest teen birth rate and one of the highest rates of repeat teen births. Research shows that a comprehensive sex education can change those rankings," said parent and advocate Jimmy Ballard.

Currently, Texas public schools are not required to teach sexual education. If it is taught, the law requires that schools stress abstinence.

"My passion for medically accurate sex education started with my poor experience in high school. My school brought in a couple who explained to students that we are all roses," said advocate Ariana Rodriguez.

The proposed revisions suggest teaching middle school and high school teens about birth control options beyond abstinence. Many advocates argue it's important to educate teens before they make a decision without all the facts.

"Many teens do engage in sexual activity. That is what data shows and for those who don't, they will have sex at some point in their life. School is supposed to prepare students for the real world," said Certified Health Education Specialist Nikkie Banneyer.

None of the people who joined the virtual meeting were against the proposed revision.

25 News reached out to districts like Lorena ISD and Gatesville ISD for their perspective on the proposed changes. Both districts said their focus right now is on starting the next school year before looking at specific policies.

In a statement, Lorena ISD Superintendent Joe Kucera said, "Lorena ISD's first priority in recent weeks has been preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, so I have not had much opportunity yet to review the changes being considered. However, any time the State Board of Education makes changes regarding policies and requirements, Lorena ISD explores options for implementation of those policies that are consistent with the values of our community."

In a statement, Gatesville ISD Superintendent Barrett Pollard said, "Given the fluid nature of COVID-19 and changing guidelines from the state, Gatesville ISD has focused its planning and attention on the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. While we wait on further guidance from the Texas Education Agency, GISD has been creating a plan to resume school in the fall with options regarding in-person and remote learning. Because of the amount of time and attention this is taking, GISD has not yet considered all of the options regarding health education and any new legislative requirements in that area."

Advocates asked the board to include the LGBTQIA students in the standards, saying this is a chance to help reduce discrimination and bullying at schools.

"75% of all Texans agreed that to help prevent bullying of LGBTQ youth. Public schools should include standards about cultivating respect for all people regardless of sexual orientation," said advocate Heather Frederick.

The board is expected to make a final decisions by November.