No Sex, Please, We're Texas

Progressive coalition challenges abstinence-only health textbooks

The four health textbooks up for adoption – two from Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, one from Delmar Learning, and one from (Austin-based) Holt, Rinehart and Winston – are Texas editions, designed to please the ultraconservative State Board of Education.
The four health textbooks up for adoption – two from Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, one from Delmar Learning, and one from (Austin-based) Holt, Rinehart and Winston – are "Texas editions," designed to please the ultraconservative State Board of Education.

The handful of conservatives who control the selection of the state's high school health textbooks is putting sexually active teens at risk, a coalition of advocacy groups says. The Protect Our Kids Campaign includes the Texas Freedom Network, which has taken the progressive side's lead in the recurring state textbook wars, and Planned Parenthood – as well as groups such as the Texas Association of Ob/Gyns, the Gray Panthers, the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, and the League of Women Voters.

The group was formed specifically to protest four textbooks being put forward for adoption by the State Board of Education this fall; the first hearing on those textbooks is to be held next week. Glenda Parks, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said the "abstinence-only" textbooks are a huge step backward from what is currently being taught in classrooms. The textbooks also ignore current state curriculum, which requires teachers in the one-semester health course to teach the "pros" and "cons" of barrier contraceptives.

"If you believe these textbooks, there is only dating and abstinence on the one hand, or marriage and parenthood on the other," Parks said. "There's nothing in between." The SBOE – an elected body long dominated by some of the most vocal conservatives in Texas state government – pressures the textbook publishers, and the publishers respond, Parks said.

The same publishers that put out responsible textbooks in 1996 are now presenting material completely devoid of discussion of safe sex, says Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network. The Protect Our Kids Campaign instead proposes that the books contain some combination of abstinence education and a discussion of contraceptive methods.

Peggy Romberg, CEO of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association, says the abstinence-only position not only denies high school students accurate information, but also puts their health at risk in light of rising infection rates for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Parks pointed to one textbook, which provided a "brilliant case" on why HIV was such a tremendous threat to teens – but then failed to include any ways to reduce the risk of infection, other than abstinence.

Romberg says the federal government has put almost a billion dollars into grants for abstinence programs since 1996, although no program has been proven to stop teens from having sex. Parks adds that research seems to indicate that abstinence programs do tend to delay teens from having sex – but then, when they do, they fail to use contraceptive methods, leaving them more at risk for unplanned pregnancy and STDs.

The State Board of Education has scheduled hearings on the health textbooks for July 14 and Sept. 8. The final vote on textbook adoption is scheduled on Nov. 5.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Textbooks
SBOE Approves an Evolution in Texas Textbooks
SBOE Approves an Evolution in Texas Textbooks
Over loud objections, the State Board of Education voted to approve high school biology textbooks discussing evolution.

Michael King, Nov. 14, 2003

More by Kimberly Reeves
Charter School Approval Sparks More Debate
Charter School Approval Sparks More Debate
Williamson County charter school wins approval, but the charter school issue in general remains contentious

Jan. 9, 2009

Last Goodbye to Aquarena Springs
Last Goodbye to Aquarena Springs
Texas State plans to trade in Aquarena Springs' renowned Fifties kitsch for turn-of-the-century simplicity

Nov. 14, 2008

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Textbooks, health textbooks, state board of education, Protect our Kids Campaign, Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood, sex education

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle