Associated Press, September 8, 2004
Groups wage fight over sex
ed in textbooks
DATELINE: AUSTIN -- Social conservatives and
sex education advocates are clashing head-on
in the debate of what Texas public school students
should learn from their health textbooks.
On Wednesday, the state Board of Education holds
the final public hearing on which books will
be used in the 2005-06 school year, replacing
11-year-old materials now being used.
The hearing has sparked a new round of debate
over what's too sexy to be in the classroom
and whether abstinence-only or lessons in contraception
are the better policy.
The "Protect Our Kids Campaign," a
group of sex education advocates ranging from
Planned Parenthood to the Texas State Teachers
Association, on Tuesday released results of
a recent poll that showed 90 percent of adult
Texans favor teaching "age-appropriate,
medically accurate sex education that includes
information on abstinence, birth control and
prevention of sexually transmitted diseases
The survey question was commissioned by the group
and conducted by the Scripps Howard Texas Poll.
The telephone survey polled 1,000 adult Texans
from Aug. 9-26 and has a margin of error of
3 percentage points.
"High school is the last chance for many
students to get this information and some of
our children's lives will literally hang in
the balance," Susan Moffat, an Austin
parent of a public school student, said Tuesday.
Socially conservative organizations, such as
Texans for Life and the Texas Eagle Forum,
disagree. They have scheduled an "Abstinence
Only" news conference in Austin before
the state board meeting.
"We have seen what this 'comprehensive'
style sex-education is really about - selling
sex to kids," said Jim Sedlak of the American
Life League, who plans several events, including
protests at Planned Parenthood facilities,
before the final vote.
"Students need to know that abstinence until
marriage is not a mere suggestion, but an expectation,"
Members of the Protect Our Kids Campaign said
they also support abstinence teaching, but
that it is unrealistic by itself.
The Rev. Robert Karli, pastor of First English
Lutheran Church, said he and many clergy members
support teaching children to wait until marriage
to have sex. But he said he also taught his
sons about how to use a condom.
Dr. Kimberly Carter, an obstetrician/gynecologist
at St. David's Medical Center in Austin, said
she sees about 10 pregnant teenagers every
week in her practice. She said most have some
form of sexually transmitted disease.
"Most say education would have helped them,"
Texas has the nation's highest teen birth rate,
with a rate of 64 per 1,000, according to the
National Vital Statistics Reports.
The state-mandated curriculum requires that health
books "analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness
of barrier protection and other contraceptive
Critics argue that three of the submitted books
do not mention latex condoms and therefore
do not adhere to the state requirement. One
of the books includes a brief description of
Publishers have argued the books meet the requirements
by including more detailed information about
contraceptive methods in a separate student
supplement and teacher editions.
Under Texas law, school districts have the option
of providing abstinence-based sex education
studies. Parents also may choose to take their
children out of those classes.
By putting contraceptive and other information
in the health textbooks, the state would eliminate
the parental option on sex ed, said Kyleen
Wright, president of Texans for Life.
"Sex education is not under attack. But
you can't opt your kid out of a textbook for
a mandatory course," Wright said. "They
want to sneak this in the textbooks so parents
can't opt out."
She also questioned the "age appropriate"
standard in the survey question. She said parents
would not have the option to determine what
is appropriate for their child.
The 15-member board can only vote to reject books
based on errors or failure to follow state
The books in question have already been reviewed
by a panel of educators and parents appointed
by the Texas Education Agency.
The decision could affect dozens of states because
books sold in Texas, the nation's second-largest
buyer of textbooks, are often marketed elsewhere.
Texas, California and Florida account for more
than 30 percent of the nation's $4 billion
public school book market.
<< Associated Press -- 9/8/04 >>
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