Texas received $16,040,338 in federal funding for
Texas Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Texas does not require sexuality education. However, Texas Education Code states that if a school district does teach sexuality education, HIV/AIDS prevention, or sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention education, then it must:
Sexuality education and STD/HIV-prevention education are also included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Health Education, which are written by the Texas Education Agency.
If a school district implements a sexuality education program, it must also set up an advisory board. The majority of this board must be made up by parents with children enrolled in the district who are not employed by the district. This board must “assist the district in ensuring that local community values are reflected in the district's health education instruction.”
Parents or guardians may remove their children from any part of sexuality education instruction by submitting a written request to the principal. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
Legislation Would Change Education Code
Introduced in March 2005 and referred to the House Committee on Public Education, House Bill 3134 would enact several changes in the state Education Code. Among other alterations, it states that all sexuality education course material and instruction must “provide a clear understanding of abstinence from sexual activity and engaging in sexual activity” and “for circumstances in which a student is unable to abstain from sexual activity, analyze the benefits of a healthy and monogamous sexual relationship and provide detailed information about local agencies that provide relationship support and counseling.” In addition, all instruction would have to teach about contraception and condom use in “a medically accurate manner that addresses the health benefits of contraception and condom use.” The bill died at the end of the legislative session.
Bill Would Repeal the Teaching of Criminalization of “Homosexual Conduct”
House Bill 3215, introduced in March 2005 and referred to the House Committee on State Affairs, would change state sexuality education law to remove language that instructs teachers to “state that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code” as well as to “emphasize, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general pubic and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.” (In 2003, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior to be unconstitutional.) The bill died at the end of the legislative session.
Texas Prevention First Act of 2005 Introduced
House Bill 1354, introduced in February 2005 and referred to the House Committee on Public Health, asks for “funding for services to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions and lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV).” The legislation cites contraceptive coverage in health insurance, educating people about emergency contraception, allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription, increasing the availability of emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors, funding teen pregnancy prevention, and requiring medical accuracy in all education that discusses contraception and condoms as steps to be taken in order to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions and lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases. The bill died at the end of the legislative session.
Legislation Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Introduced
House Bill 376 and Senate Bill 201, introduced in January 2005 and referred to their respective Committees on Education, would prohibit any public educational institution or employee of such an institution from discriminating against a student enrolled in the institution based on “ethniticity, color, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, disability, religion, or national origin, of the student or the student's parents.” Both bills died at the end of the legislative session.
Events of Note
Texas Fetal Protection Law Sends 19-year-old to Prison for Life
On June 6, 2005, 19-year-old Gerardo Flores was found guilty on two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison by the Angelina County Court in Lufkin, TX for helping his girlfriend end her pregnancy.2 In 2004, Flores' girlfriend, 16-year-old Erica Basoria, found out she was pregnant with twins. Initially opposed to abortion, according to her medical record, Basoria asked her doctor about termination at four months and was told it was too late. At five months she asked her boyfriend to step on her stomach as she hit herself causing her to miscarry.
The Prenatal Protection Act, which became law in Texas in 2003, defines an “individual” as “an unborn child at every state of gestation from fertilization until birth,”3 and allows “criminal prosecution or civil action for a preventable injury or death of a fetus.”4 Twenty states have similar laws recognizing a fetus at any stage of development as a victim under homicide laws.5 Basoria cannot be prosecuted because the law does not extend culpability to the pregnant woman or any source of legal medical care she may receive. Flores, however, is treated as a stranger under the statute and can be prosecuted as if he had randomly attacked Basoria.
The ACLU has expressed “serious reservations about legislation designed to protect fetuses, because it can endanger women's rights by reinforcing claims of ‘fetal rights' in the law.”6 Legislation that grants full rights to fetuses is in tension with Roe v. Wade, which says that for the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, a fetus is not a person. Such legislation provides a foundation for opponents of choice to argue for continued restrictions on abortion.7
Young People Use Films to Advocate for Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Two films about sexuality education, The Education of Shelby Knox and Toothpaste, generated a flurry of media attention and have proved to be excellent advocacy tools for sexuality education activists across the country.
The Education of Shelby Knox, an award-winning documentary, follows Shelby Knox, a high school student in Lubbock, TX, who joins the local youth council and becomes a leader in advocating for improved sexuality education in her area schools. The film profiles her political awakening, as she goes from attending a True Love Waits virginity pledge ceremony with her parents to working with a group of gay and lesbian students at her school to form a gay-straight alliance.
Toothpaste, a film created by Kristal Villarreal, Laura Coria, Gladys Sanchez, and Amanda Ramirez, students at Mission High School in the Rio Grande Valley, TX, profiles the story of two teen girls considering whether to have sex with their boyfriends. The students created the film after winning an annual contest hosted by Scenarios USA, an organization that pairs student screenwriters with Hollywood directors to make films about sexuality. According to the organization's website, its aim is “to inspire teens to make healthier and safer decisions by offering them a creative approach to thinking through and discussing their lives, their choices, and their future.”8 The 16-minute educational film promotes the use of condoms, referred to as “toothpaste” in local slang.
Both Shelby Knox and the students who created Toothpaste were inspired by the high incidence of teen pregnancy and unprotected sexual activity taking place in their hometowns. These young people hope their films provide evidence of the need for comprehensive sexuality education. The young women who wrote Toothpaste, all of whom are now attending college, said they would like to see Texas include information on contraception in its sexuality education policy. Ramirez explained, “hopefully, the state will also realize the law they have—it's not working.”9
Texas House Bans, But Does Not Define “Suggestive” Cheerleading
On the May 3, 2005, the Texas state House of Representatives took on the issue of “sexy cheerleading” and voted 65-56 to ban the practice. The bill, proposed by Democratic Representative Al Edwards, banned, but failed to define the practice of “overtly sexually suggestive” cheerleading, leaving cheerleaders and their coaches confused as to what exactly they are not allowed to do.
“Any adult that's been involved with sex in their lives, they know it when they see it,” Edwards said.10 The bill and Rep. Edwards' explanation took many by surprise, prompting ridicule and mockery by media outlets and even late night comedians. A correspondent from The Daily Show w ith Jon Stewart quipped that in order for cheerleaders to recognize whether their routines were suggestive they would have to become involved with sex in their own lives.11
Despite its vagueness, Edwards argued that the bill, which would give the state education commissioner the authority to request reviews of high school performances, is a teen pregnancy prevention tool. Lacking any evidence, he asserted that, “overtly sexual performances” are a distraction for students that result in teen pregnancy, high school dropouts, and the spread of sexually transmitted disease.12 Edwards, who in the past has also crusaded against explicit song lyrics and Internet pornography, felt that “people were waiting for something to be done” about what he views as another symptom of the deterioration of morals in America.13
The bill died at the end of the legislative session. Even if the bill had been approved by the Senate and Republican Governor Rick Perry, it was unlikely to have much effect. The American Civil Liberties Union had deemed it redundant because state law already prohibits public lewdness by students on or near a school campus.
New Study on Adolescent Access to Reproductive Health Care Released
A study, published in the December 2004 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, focused on female teens under age 18 who depend on publicly financed health care and found that the reproductive health status of Texas adolescents is poor when compared to national levels.14 Researchers examined projected health consequences and public medical costs associated with restricting adolescents' access to confidential reproductive health services in Texas.
Researchers wanted to assess the potential economic costs that would result when adolescents do not seek reproductive health because their confidentiality is compromised. Using previous data on how young people would react to parental notification, researchers constructed a model to estimate, for a one-year period, the effect of an anticipated decrease in services on pregnancies, births, abortions, and untreated STDs among girls under 18 using publicly funded reproductive health care services in Texas.15
Using this model, the researchers estimated that reporting and consent requirements for youth would result in a rise in unintended pregnancies, births, and abortions among teens using publicly funded family planning clinics in Texas, as well as a rise in cases of untreated Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Additionally, the researchers found that these outcomes would cost $43.6 million per year, of which $33.7 million would come directly out of the pockets of Texans.16 The authors of the study caution, however, that these costs only account for the direct publicly funded medical expenditures such as STD screening and treatment, and prenatal care, delivery, and infant care for the first year. These figures therefore underestimate the cost to individuals and society because infants born to teen mothers often require other expenditures such as neonatal intensive care, hospitalization, public assistance, education, and special services.
Girl Scouts Face Criticism from Pro-Life Waco
Pro-Life Waco, a local Christian group, called for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because the local Bluebonnet Council of Girl Scouts supports Planned Parenthood's annual sexuality education seminars. “I encourage you to join me in abstaining from Girl Scout cookies,” the director of Pro-Life Waco said in public service announcements that ran on a local Christian radio station for several weeks.17
According to the executive director of the Bluebonnet Council of Girl Scouts, the group does not take any stance on abortion or sexuality education and none of the money from the cookie sales goes to Planned Parenthood or any other organization. It does, however, allow the national Girl Scouts logo to be put on posters for Planned Parenthood of Central Texas' summer sexuality education seminar held annually for fifth through ninth-graders. More than 20 other groups sign on to these posters as well; Pro-Life Waco has yet to go after any of the other groups as aggressively.
The director of Pro-Life Waco explained that he thought up the boycott when the Bluebonnet Council honored the Central Texas Planned Parenthood's director in May. He explained, “when I saw the head of Planned Parenthood held up as a role model to little girls, that was great irritation to me.”18 The boycott received national attention. The communications director of the Circle T Council, which serves over 1,200 Girl Scout troops in four counties, remarked, “I think it's unfortunate that the girls have gotten caught in [this] agenda.”19
Two of the 400 Girl Scout troops in the Central Texas district have disbanded as a result of the Planned Parenthood connection; however, the boycott did not seem to work as Pro-Life Waco had hoped. The executive director of the Bluebonnet Council of Girl Scouts said that there were few reports of adults turning down cookie sales because of the boycott. In fact, in Waco, the boycott seemed to have resulted in increased cookie sales.
As a result of the controversy, however, t he Bluebonnet Council of Girls Scouts decided to discontinue its relationship with Planned Parenthood. Pro-Life Waco ended its boycott of the cookies in March 2004. One parent, however, started a new troop for girls, affiliated with the Christian-based American Heritage Girls. The parent said, “I felt like the Girl Scouts' morals were definitely lacking, and the girls needed another choice.”20
Judge Rules Against GSA in Lubbock, TX
Lambda Legal Defense sued the Lubbock, TX schools on behalf of students who were not allowed to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) on campus. Lambda Legal claimed that the district violated the students' constitutional rights as well as federal law by refusing to allow the group to meet at a high school in late 2002.
Texas Board Restricts Educational Information, Embraces Discriminatory Language
In November 2004, the Texas School Board of Education approved health textbooks for Texas' public middle and high schools. Beginning the previous summer, the textbooks were the subject of a great deal of criticism due to their lack of adequate information on contraception and changes made to the definition of marriage.
Advocates of comprehensive sexuality education argued that the books did not fulfill the Texas state curriculum standard, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which requires that students are able to “analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods.”24 Only one of the four textbooks mentioned condoms as a way to help prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS. In the other three books, information about contraceptive options, including condoms, was found only in the teachers' editions. The publishers argued that this information not only adhered to state standards but also allowed for local control of what information was made available to students.
Advocates disagreed. “Because this basic information is not in Student's Editions, most students will never see it,” explained the chief executive officer of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas. “Families know that making sure our kids have the most accurate and reliable information is the best protection we have for raising safe, healthy, responsible adults.”25 According to the Brownsville Herald, a Scripps Howard Texas Poll taken in August 2004 found that 90% of Texans prefer that “age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information on abstinence, birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases of HIV” be taught in the public schools.26
Before the board made its final decision, a second argument over the definition of marriage erupted. One member of the Texas Board of Education, who sends her own children to private school, made the argument that the textbooks could not be in accordance with the Texas Marriage Act unless marriage was clearly defined as a “lifelong union between a husband and a wife.” She was concerned that “neutral words in the book such as ‘couples' and ‘partners' are inclusive to same-sex marriages and mislead students.”27
Two publishers, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, a division of Harcourt, Inc., and Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, a division of the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., agreed to the board's demands that marriage be defined as a “lifelong union between a husband and a wife” and that when referring to relationships, the words ‘people' and ‘individuals' be replaced with “man and a woman.”28
The president of the Texas Freedom Network criticized the board's decision saying that, “four million teenagers will rely on these textbooks for information that is accurate and up-to-date. Instead of doing the responsible thing and providing high school students with life-saving information about sex and health, the state board of education has left them to fend for themselves and get information from each other and sources like the Internet and MTV.”29
As the second largest textbook purchaser in the United States after California, the Texas School Board of Education's decisions influence the buying options for other states and educational resources for scores of students across the nation.
Texas' Youth: Statistical Information of Note30
Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding
Texas received $4,777,916 in federal Title V funding in Fiscal Year 2005. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. Texas matches its federal funding with $450,000 from the state budget. The rest of the match is provided through in-kind services and funds from sub-grantees. The money is controlled by the Texas Department of Health and is split among a media campaign (which is used only occasionally), community groups, technical assistance, program evaluation, and administrative costs. The majority of the money is given to 38 sub-grantees, six of which are school districts.
The Medical Institute, formerly known as the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, is one Title V sub-grantee. The Medical Institute works with the ChangeMakers seminar and focuses on adult community leaders to establish “a ‘Community Milieu' that supports abstinence.” The Medical Institute holds seminars designed to develop action strategies to mobilize communities and build community-wide consensus, and is creating a media campaign to complement this project and to further its reach.
Another Title V sub-grantee, Worth the Wait, uses its self-titled abstinence-only education program that was created by a physician. The mission of the program is to “educate adolescents and adults on the consequences of teen sexual activity including the medical, social, economic, and legal impacts.”34 The website contains sample materials and lessons to be used in the classroom. One lesson, targeting sixth grade students, discusses STDs stating that, “condoms have been proven to decrease greatly your chance of getting HIV if used correctly every time you have sex but have not been proven to reduce greatly your chance of getting other STDs.”35 In fact, condoms have been shown to significantly reduce transmission of a variety of STDs.
SIECUS reviewed Worth the Wait and found that it covers some important topics related to sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual abuse, and that the curriculum is based on reliable sources of data. Despite these strengths, Worth the Wait relies on messages of fear, discourages contraceptive use, and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum explains, “teenage sexual activity can create a multitude of medical, legal, and economic problems not only for the individuals having sex but for society as a whole.”36
Title V Evaluation
A state-sponsored evaluation of Texas' Title V programs completed in September 2004 and released in February 2005, revealed an increase in sexual activity following the implementation of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services contracted with Texas A&M University to conduct the multi-phase evaluation designed to increase understanding of the state's Title V “abstinence education” program. Five “abstinence education” contractors in Texas volunteered to participate in this phase of the study. Students who participated in these programs, and who received parental permission, responded to questionnaires prior to participation and directly following participation.
Among other factors, the evaluation assessed students' sexual behaviors following their participation in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and sought to examine “factors that have been previously identified as associated with adolescents' intention to remain abstinent…and to detect whether abstinence education programs impact these factors and/or youth's self-reported abstinent behavior.”37
Analysis of the data revealed that both the middle and high school study groups showed “no significant changes” in the percentage of students “pledging not to have sex before marriage.”38 In addition, the analysis revealed that following abstinence-only-until-marriage the percentage of students reporting having ever engaged in sexual intercourse increased for nearly all ages between 13 and 17 by the time of the post-test.
The report notes that abstinence-only-until-marriage “programs appear to be operating without solid, statistical evidence of their effectiveness.”39 A co-investigator for the study explained, “most of what we've discovered shows there's no evidence the large amount of money spent is having an effect.”40 The co-investigator went on to say, “we didn't see any strong indications these programs were having an impact in the direction desired…these programs seem to be much more concerned about politics than kids, and we need to get over that.”41
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE)42 and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are fourteen CBAE grantees in Texas: Celebrate Kids, Inc., Communities in Schools?Corpus Christi Inc., Families Under Urban and Social Attack, First Choice Pregnancy Resource Center, Fisher County Rural Abstinence Education Coalition, Fort Bend Independent School District, JOVEN (receives two grants), Jordan Community Development Corporation, Laredo Independent School District, Longview Wellness Center, McLennan County Collaborative Abstinence Project(McCAP) (receives two grants), Sex Education Programs (Scott and White Memorial Hospital and Clinic) (receives two grants), Shannon Health Systems/ Right Choices for Youth Program, and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
There are five AFLA grantees: Baptist Children's Home, Dallas Independent School District, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, JOVEN, and Youth and Family Alliance (dba Lifeworks).
The Worth the Wait program focuses on Gray, Hemphill, and Wheeler Counties. It targets students ages 11–17 and their parents and uses doctors, nurses, social workers, and youth leaders to provide an abstinence message. The program is described as “medically accurate.” In addition, the program uses a media campaign to cover the entire Texas Panhandle, which consists of 25 counties. For more about Worth the Wait, see the Title V section.
The Fifth Ward Enrichment Program uses the Choosing the Best and Sex Can Wait curricula. JOVEN also uses the Sex Can Wait program.
SIECUS reviewed two of the curricula produced by Choosing the Best, Inc.— Choosing the Best LIFE (for high school students) and Choosing the Best Path (for middle school students). These reviews found that the curricula name numerous negative consequences of premarital sexual activity and suggest that teens should feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed of sexual behavior. For example, Choosing the Best LIFE states that, “relationships often lower the self-respect of both partners—one feeling used, the other feeling like the user. Emotional pain can cause a downward spiral leading to intense feelings of lack of worthlessness.” Choosing the Best PATH says, “sexual activity also can lead to the trashing of a person's reputation, resulting in the loss of friends.”43
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2005
Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Coordinator
Karen Knox Flowers
Texas Organizations that Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Texas Organizations that Oppose Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Newspapers in Texas
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