House Shoots Down Medical Accuracy

Failed amendments to Senate Bill 283 would have – God forbid – mandated that sex ed be medically accurate

Mark Strama
Mark Strama
Photo by John Anderson

Republican lawmakers in the House have successfully blocked amendments that would have required schools to teach only medically accurate information in sex-education curricula. Another amendment, requiring that information about the efficacy of condoms be complete and without bias whenever information about contraceptives is taught, was also blocked from consideration.

While levelheaded Texans may find this a disappointing if not truly embarrassing turn of events, the news most certainly came as a relief to the Plano-based Free Market Foun­da­tion, which put out an earnest "TRULY URGENT" e-mail alert to supporters on May 18, warning that efforts to attach the med-accurate measures to a School Health Advisory Council-related bill were nothing more than an attempt by Planned Parent­hood and the Texas Freedom Network to "steal your children's sexual purity from them."

Without a hint of irony, the e-mail suggests that the measures are abhorrent because they would threaten the continued dissemination of abstinence-only sex education in the state. Indeed, if accuracy were required in sex ed, a number of the most popular ab-only curricula would certainly be relegated to the circular file. According to a two-year study completed in February by two health education professors at Texas State Uni­ver­sity, the state of Texas' sex-ed programs, which are overwhelmingly ab-only oriented, is horrid at best: Profes­sors David Wiley and Kelly Wilson found that curricula from nearly 1,000 public school districts were rife with factual errors – 40% contained misinformation about condoms, for example (including the bizarre assertion that HIV can pass through a latex condom). Apparently that sort of inaccuracy is perfectly fine with the Free Market crowd: "Condoms are not the answer," reads the e-mail to supporters. "Abstinence-before-marriage not only stops the rate of unwanted pregnancies but also stops the lifelong consequences of sexually transmitted diseases."

Given that Texas has the third highest rate of teen pregnancies and is No. 1 in the rate of teens who've been pregnant more than once, it would seem that the ab-only-until-marriage message isn't exactly having the desired effect. (For more on sex education in Texas, see "Just Watch the Livestock," March 20.)

The bill to which the sex-ed amendments would have been attached is Senate Bill 283 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, which seeks to strengthen the meeting and reporting requirements for the SHACs, which advise school districts on health-related issues, including what curriculum should be used to teach sex ed. Although it would seem that the sex-ed-related amendments were germane, they were killed on a point of order brought by Rep. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who challenged them on that point. (Interestingly, according to the Wiley and Wilson report, which was commissioned by the Texas Freedom Network, the Birdville ISD, in Hancock's district, failed to provide any information on SHAC meetings for the district in response to a TFN open-records request.)

Still, at least one good addition made it onto the bill: An amendment by Austin Dem Rep. Mark Strama would require school districts to provide parents with a summary of their sex-ed curriculum, which would provide a way for parents to know not only that their kids are being taught sex ed but also exactly what they're being taught.

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