Updated Texas state sex education standards require middle schoolers to learn about contraception and STDs, but parents must opt their children into the curriculum going forward.
Some sex education curriculums all across the nation are ridiculed for being far too radical. However, deeply conservative Texas is proving that the need for these lessons in schools is still required. The Lone Star State adopted new standards for sex education this year, and they are more extensive than ever before.
It was the first time Texas updated its sex education standards in more than 20 years. It is being coined the “abstinence-plus” curriculum. Now, health standards don’t just require schools to preach abstinence, but it also requires them to educate children about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Minimally, middle school sex education must provide lessons on abstinence and contraception. Additionally, these students must be given information on sexually transmitted infections. Now, all students learn about the human papillomavirus (HPV) an increasingly dangerous STD that is linked to several cancers.
The updated sex education standards still only require schools to teach these lessons to middle schoolers. At the high school level, the classes remain an elective option. But in another change, the updates now require parents to opt-in their children, meaning they will be left out of instruction if their parents don’t send back written approval to the classes.
Keeping with the same standards, these new provisions are only what’s minimally required in schools throughout the state. As usual, districts can set their own standards to go above and beyond the sex education requirements. However, because only a small majority (17%) of school districts offered curriculums with more than state requirements in past years, it is likely that most Texas children will only learn the minimum.
When it comes to teenage pregnancies, Texas ranks high. According to data from the CDC, the southern state records 22.4 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19. What’s more, they rank highest in the nation for repeat teen pregnancies.
Because of these startling statistics, many believe that the state was urged to offer more extensive sex education to young children. Furthermore, these changes came at a time of sweeping changes across the nation as the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. With states like Texas having extensive fines making abortion illegal, it may be more important than ever to teach young students about safe sex practices.
Republican states have been pushing to restrict sex education in schools. But an overwhelming amount of voters across party lines showed support for this new measure before it was passed. According to polling data from Texas Is Ready, 75% of voters, including 68% of Republicans approved of the abstinence-plus standards.
While many families disagree with sex education because of personal or religious views, schools feel urged to offer these lessons to curb teen pregnancy rates. Research has proven that school programs that teach about contraception are more effective at preventing pregnancy and even delaying sexual activity among youth. Some fear these teachings advocate the sexualization of children, while others hope that it fosters healthy habits that can avoid unwanted pregnancies, and keep children from contracting diseases.