Sex Ed in Texas

A Brief Overview

The State of Texas does not require any sex or HIV education to be taught in public schools, yet if a school chooses to teach these topics, it is required to emphasize abstinence until marriage1. There are no requirements about specific content, including medically accurate information about contraception. To meet these standards, some Texas schools choose to teach abstinence-plus education, which emphasizes abstinence as the first and best choice for teens, but also includes information about contraception.

What is sexual health education?

Sexual health education2 is the provision of information about bodily development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make informed decisions regarding sex and their sexual health. It should be age-appropriate, culturally sensitive and medically accurate.

Is sexual health education a requirement in Texas public schools?

No, sex education instruction is not mandated in the state of Texas3

Is sexual health education a requirement in other states?

Yes, 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education. Texas is one of 26 states that does mandate sex education4.

Do parents or guardians need to be informed if their child is to receive sex education or HIV/STD instruction?

A student does not need parental permission to participate in sexuality education or HIV/AIDS education classes in Texas but parents can remove their child from a class if they object to what is being taught5.

Can schools use outside speakers to deliver sex education or HIV/STD instruction?

Yes, local school districts may use a variety of outside speakers to deliver information to students on topics pertaining to human sexuality.

When Texas does teach sex education, how is it taught?

According to the 2016 Texas Freedom Network (TFN) study, Conspiracy of Silence, Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools, this is how the percentages stack up:

  • 58.3% of Texas public schools teach Abstinence-only curriculum.
  • 16.6% of Texas public schools teach Abstinence-plus curriculum.
  • 25.1% of Texas public schools teach no sex education at all.

Key Definitions: Program Types6

Abstinence-Only-Until Marriage: Programs that teach abstinence as the only morally correct option of sexual expression for teenagers They usually censor information about contraception and condoms for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unintended pregnancy.

Abstinence-Plus: Programs that include information about condoms and other forms of contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the context of strong abstinence messages. 

Comprehensive:  Programs that teach abstinence as the best method for avoiding STDs and unintended pregnancy, but also teach about condoms and contraception to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and of infection with STDs, including HIV. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills and helps young people explore their own values, goals, and options.

Why are sexual health education programs important?

Sex is a natural part of life, and it happens with or without sex education. As young people grow up, they face important decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behavior. The decisions they make can impact their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. Young people have the right to lead healthy lives, and society has the responsibility to prepare youth by providing them with comprehensive sexual health education that gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions.

Why not stick with abstinence-only curricula?

The weight of scientific evidence finds that abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs are not effective in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse or changing other sexual risk behaviors. AOUM programs, as defined by U.S. federal funding requirements, inherently withhold information about human sexuality and may provide medically inaccurate and stigmatizing information. Thus, AOUM programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life. Young people need access to accurate and comprehensive sexual health information to protect their health and lives7.

Where is sexual health education in Texas headed?

According to the 2016 TFN Study, the number of Texas public schools teaching abstinence-only curriculum has decreased significantly since 2007-2008 (94% to 58.3%) and the number of Texas public schools teaching abstinence-plus curriculum has increased (3.6% to 16.6%). Unfortunately, the number of schools offering no sex education at all has increased tremendously (2.3% to 25.1%).

While more students appear to be receiving instruction that provides medically accurate information on condoms/contraception, about eight in ten Texas school districts still teach only abstinence or nothing at all when it comes to sex education. Since the State of Texas removed the health education requirement for high school graduation in 2009, the number of districts not offering health education classes has risen dramatically.

How is sexual health education funded?

Sex education programs are typically funded by federal, state and local governments. Since 1982, Congress has funneled more than $2 billion into abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs. These programs often use shame and scare tactics to promote abstinence as the only option for young people. In 2010, two-thirds of this federal funding was cut and replaced with nearly $190 million in funding to support teen pregnancy prevention programs including the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) and Personal Responsibility Education Programs (PREP), which required use of evidence-based curricula to address sexual health of teens.

The State of Texas declined to apply for any of this funding. However, there are eight Texas organizations that receive a combined $8.6 million annually through this federal funding stream and these programs serve thousands of youth including our most vulnerable populations such as youth in foster care, pregnant and parenting youth, and adjudicated youth. As of 2017, under the current administration, this funding is at risk of being cut from the federal budget.

Sources

1 Texas Education Code §28.004.

2 Advocates for Youth. “Sexuality Education: Building an evidence- and rights-based approach to healthy decision-making.” Accessed January 2018 from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/2390-sexuality-education

3 Texas Education Code §28.004

4 Guttmacher Institute. “Sex and HIV Education.” Accessed January 2018 from https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education.

5 Texas Education Code §28.004.

6 Advocates for Youth. “Sexuality Education: Building an evidence- and rights-based approach to healthy decision-making.” Accessed January 2018 from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/2390-sexuality-education

7 “Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage: An Updated Review of U.S. Policies and Programs and Their Impact.” Santelli, John S. et al. Journal of Adolescent Health , Volume 61 , Issue 3 , 273 – 280. Accessed January 2018 from https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2017/08/abstinence-only-until-marriage-updated-review-us-policies-and-programs-and-their

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