Updated Health Education Standards will provide Texas students with essential information for healthy lives, healthy relationships
AUSTIN, TEXAS–For the first time in more than two decades, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has updated the minimum curriculum standards that guide sex education in Texas with key information that students need for healthy lives and healthy relationships.
SBOE members today approved the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Health Education at their quarterly meeting.
Public opinion polling data conducted in March by the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found widespread, bipartisan support for “abstinence-plus” sex education, which includes content on contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships, in addition to abstinence. The polling data also found strong support for teaching about consent and teaching content that is respectful of LGBTQ youth, topics which SBOE voted against including in the standards.
“We’re pleased to see state leaders embracing curriculum standards that rely on medically accurate, developmentally appropriate classroom instruction for health and sex education,” said Molly Clayton, Executive Director of the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “It is regrettable that the standards don’t reflect what the data tell us about the need for education on consent and LGBTQ inclusivity, but the new standards are an important step in the right direction to better prepare Texas students for healthy, productive futures.”
Research shows this type of evidence-based sex education can effectively reduce teen pregnancy rates and does not make teens more likely to become sexually active. Texas currently has the 9th highest teen birth rate in the nation, with about 2.4% of teens aged 15-19 giving birth in 2019. A baby was born to a teen parent once every 22 minutes in Texas in 2019.
The new curriculum standards at the middle and high school levels include age-appropriate, medically accurate content including human anatomy, puberty, reproduction, abstinence, contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships. For the first time, TEKS include content such as the HPV vaccination, postpartum depression, online safety, human trafficking, cyberbullying, and other 21st century topics.
While the standards do not include education on consent, they do include instruction on setting boundaries and respecting the boundaries of other people, an improvement over the current TEKS which only focus on refusal. Consent is a foundational topic in the prevention of sexual abuse and assault. Unfortunately, the standards do not include any content that is inclusive of LGBTQ youth. However, Texas school districts have the option to “teach beyond the TEKS” and adopt curricula that include additional content, so long as it prioritizes abstinence.
Next year, the State Board of Education will adopt instructional materials that cover these new standards.
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The Texas is Ready Coalition has advocated extensively around positive, evidence-based revisions to health education standards. The coalition of statewide and regional teen pregnancy prevention groups includes:
- The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy,
- Healthy Futures of Texas, and
- The North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (NTARUPT)