Sex Education in Texas

In 2020, the Texas State Board of Education adopted new minimum curriculum standards that will expand basic sex education to all students starting in the 2022-23 school years. Read on to learn how you can support high quality sex education in your school district. 

To learn more, visit www.TexasIsReady.org.

 

What is sexual health education?

Sexual health education 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. [1]

What has recently changed with sex education in Texas?

There have been two major changes to sex education in Texas:

  • In 2020, the State Board of Education adopted new Health Education curriculum standards. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) list the minimum standards that schools are expected to provide to students. The Health TEKS added important sex education content at the middle school level, when all students are required to take health class. This effectively expands basic sex education to all Texas students. You can read the new TEKS here.
  • In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed HB 1525 which requires additional parent notification and access to curriculum materials. The bill also requires school districts to get written consent from parents before providing sex education, rather than allowing parents to simply opt out of sex ed.

Is sexual health education a requirement in Texas public schools?

Sex education is not required under state law, but new Health Education curriculum standards will expand sex education to all middle school students, unless their parents choose to opt them out. Sex education may also be offered in high schools, though Health Education is no longer required in high school grades.

Is sexual health education a requirement in other states?

Yes, 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education. Texas is one of the 26 states that does not mandate sex education. [2]

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

State law requires school districts to inform parents prior to the start of the school year about any sex education that will be offered. Following new laws passed in 2021, parents must provide written consent for their children to participate in sex education. Texas is now one of just 6 states requiring parental consent for sex education.

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.

How has Texas been teaching sex education?

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 Types [3]

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. More recently, these programs may be referred to as “sexual risk avoidance” (SRA). SRA programs may offer some information on condoms and contraception, but often focus on highlighting failure rates.

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 lives. [4]

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.

How do Texas voters feel about sex education in schools?

In March 2020, the Texas Campaign contracted with the polling firm Baselice and Associates to survey registered Texas voters on their views around sex education.  Our polling research showed that across Texas, parents want their kids to receive common-sense, medically accurate information about their health and relationships. 

  • 75% of registered Texas voters, including 68% of republicans, support “abstinence-plus” sex education that teachers youth about topics such as birth control, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships in addition to abstinence. 
  • 88% of respondents, including 86% of Republicans, agreed that it’s important for students to learn about consent, including respecting the boundaries set by other people about their bodies.
  • 75% of Texans, including 65% of Republicans, believe that to prevent bullying of LGBTQ youth, Texas public schools should include standards around cultivating respect for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Public Opinion Poll Results

Updated Health Education TEKS

Sources:

1 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

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

3 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

4 “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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