Aug 16, 2022 - News

New school year brings Texas sex education changes

Illustration of an eggplant and peach drawn on a chalkboard.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Texas middle school students could learn about contraceptives, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and how to have healthy relationships this school year after the state's first update to the sex education curriculum in more than two decades.

  • Abstinence remains the primary focus of pregnancy prevention.

Why it matters: Texas has the ninth highest teen birthrate in the country, not far behind Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

What's happening: Seventh and eighth grade students can be taught about various birth control methods, including condoms and contraceptives under the change, which was approved by the state's education board in 2020 and went into effect this month.

  • At the high school level, the topics are taught in health classes, which are not required to graduate.

Yes, but: Parents and guardians must now opt in to the sex education curriculum.

  • And, the materials do not cover sexual health issues in the LGBTQ+ community.

State of play: Dallas-based North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (NTARUPT) has merged with the Austin-based Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and San Antonio-based Healthy Futures of Texas to work as one statewide teen pregnancy prevention program.

  • The nonpartisan organization, which now operates under the name Healthy Futures of Texas, is focused on ensuring equal access to sex education and preventing teenage pregnancies primarily in the Dallas area, San Antonio and the valley.

What they're saying: Students should be taught what healthy relationships look like in case those aren't modeled for them at home so they can make informed romantic decisions.

  • "They just need so much information and access in order to really make these good life choices. We need to make it easy for them to make good life choices," Healthy Futures of Texas CEO Evelyn Delgado told Axios.

Context: Gov. Greg Abbott, who is in a bid for re-election, has promised a sort of parental bill of rights to give parents more say in their children's education.

  • State legislators passed Senate Bill 9 in September to allow parents to choose whether their children received teaching on the prevention of child abuse, family violence and sex trafficking.

By the numbers: The overall teen birth rate has been declining for decades but is still 22.4 births per 1,000 females between ages 15-19 in Texas.

Resources: Go to texasisready.org for more information.

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