Texas State Profile
The Department of State Health Services and community-based organizations in Texas received $18,213,472 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Texas does not require sexuality education. However, Texas Education Code states that if a school district does teach sexuality education, HIV/AIDS prevention, or sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention education, then it must:
Sexuality education and STD/HIV-prevention education are also included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Health Education, which are written by the Texas Education Agency.
Each school district must also have a local health advisory council established by the board of trustees. The council must make recommendations to the school district about changes in that district’s curriculum and must make recommendations about “the appropriate grade levels and methods of instruction for human sexuality instruction.” This council also must “assist the district in ensuring that local community values are reflected in the district’s health education instruction.”
Parents or guardians may remove their children from any part of sexuality education instruction by submitting a written request to the teacher. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See Texas Education Code Sections 28.004, and 26.010 and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Health Education.
Bill to Require Medically Accurate Human Development and Sexuality Education
In March 2007, House Bill 3165 was introduced in the Texas State Legislature, where it was referred to the Committee on State Affairs. This bill would require instruction on human development or sexuality to be medically accurate.
Anti-Discrimination in Public Schools Bill Introduced
House Bill 305, introduced in January of 2007 and referred to the Committee on Public Education, would amend the Education Code to prohibit a public educational institution or employee of a public educational institution from discriminating against students on the basis of ethnicity, color, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, disability, religion, or national origin of the student or the student’s parent.
Legislation Aims to Create an Opt-In Policy for Schools
House Bill 311, introduced in January 2007 and referred to the Committee on Public Education, would amend the current opt-out policy across the state by requiring school districts to obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian of a student before the student could receive instruction on human sexuality education. This is referred to as an “opt-in” policy.
Legislation to Expand Definition of Human Sexuality Education
House Bill 503, introduced in January of 2007, would amend the Education Code to specify that instruction on human sexuality must, among other things, provide a clear understanding of abstinence from sexual activity, include strategies to promote effective family communication about human sexuality, analyze the benefits of a monogamous relationship for students who are unable to abstain from sexual activity, and ensure that information about condoms and contraception is medically accurate. The bill is currently in the Committee on Public Education.
Board Disregards Advisory Panel; Chooses Crisis Pregnancy Center Program for Middle School
The Ector County School Board ignored the recommendations of its Health Advisory Council in selecting a new sexuality education program for the middle schools in the district. In a 4–3 decision, the board rejected the council-recommended Dreamcatcher program, which had previously been used in the seventh and eighth grades. Instead, the board chose to have the Life Center, a faith-based crisis pregnancy center (CPC), present its Teens are Saying kNOw (TASK) abstinence-only-until-marriage program to the district’s middle school students. The TASK program consists of three one-hour sessions for each grade.
The Dreamcatcher program, which had operated in the district for three years, was apparently shelved because of a disagreement over funding. The Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) had been receiving $195,519 a year from the Texas Department of Health to support the program as a part of the federal Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding stream. The company that produces Dreamcatcher claims it consulted with the ECISD and applied for the grants on behalf of the district to implement its program in middle schools. At a September board meeting, however, the deputy superintendent implied that the grant was obtained without the district’s input and suggested that new materials be used.2
District administrators then gave the members of the Health Advisory Council two replacement abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to review. One of the programs was the Life Center’s TASK program. Members of the council rejected both programs, and instead advocated for a more comprehensive approach, suggesting that the Dreamcatcher program remain and supplemental information about contraceptive options be added to the curriculum.
Council members say their recommendations were met with indifference and scorn. One member reported getting a “nasty” email from the deputy superintendent and another said of the board, “I think they have an agenda already planned, and they’ve already made their decision.”3
The director of the Life Center said her program addresses “the myth of safe sex using factual information and character building.”4 The Life Center materials tell students that condoms offer “virtually no protection whatsoever” against Chlamydia, genital herpes, and HPV, and are only proven to offer some protection against two STDs. The director the Life Center assured the district that the statistics used in the program come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH); however, fact-checking by reporters found that the Life Center’s statistics do not match information available on the CDC or NIH websites, and a CDC official remarked that “those statistics are not ours.”5
Nude Sculpture Costs Art Teacher Her Job
September 2006; Frisco, TX
A teacher at the Fisherman Elementary School was placed on administrative leave in September 2006 following a school-approved trip to the Dallas Museum of Art.6
The teacher, a 28-year veteran and winner of the Star Teacher award, was encouraged by her principal to take the 89 fifth graders to the museum.7 Parents signed a permission slip for the trip. Nonetheless, one parent complained after her child returned home and reported having seen a nude statue.8
As a result, the teacher was placed on paid leave while the school board reviewed her contract. The board was initially set to terminate the teacher immediately but, instead, decided to allow her contract to expire without renewal.
District officials claimed that there were other ongoing issues involved in this decision but the teacher claims that she had never received any negative feedback before the trip. Many parents were shocked by this turn of events and questioned what consequences it would have on the art program. One parent explained, “Our main concern right now is what’s going to happen to the children and what’s going to happen to the art program at Fisher Elementary. It is the best art program. That’s the reason we moved to this neighborhood. It’s because of the teachers.” She went on to say, “It was a principal-approved trip. What’s the big deal?”9
The Texas Department of State Health Services received $4,777,916 in federal Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding in Fiscal Year 2007. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. Texas matches its federal funding with $238,896 from the state budget. The remainder of the match is provided through in-kind services and funds from sub-grantees. The money is controlled by the Texas Department of State Health Services through the Abstinence Education Program.
There are 32 Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantees in Texas. This includes two crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs): Austin LifeCare Pregnancy Services and Corpus Christi Pregnancy Center, Inc. Crisis pregnancy centers typically advertise as providing medical services and then use anti-abortion propaganda, misinformation, and fear and shame tactics to dissuade women facing unintended pregnancy from exercising their right to choose.
Austin LifeCare Pregnancy Services describes itself as, “A Christian faith based non-profit organization dedicated to providing compassionate and trustworthy service to the Austin community.”11 The organization runs a separate website, Austin LifeGuard, dedicated to sexuality education.12 The website provides a detailed analysis of the nine month pregnancy cycle in its “Facts” section as well as information on abortion. Austin LifeGuard lists the many barriers to obtaining an abortion in Texas as well as PASS (Post Abortion Stress Syndrome) as arguments against abortion.13
There is no sound scientific evidence linking abortion to subsequent mental health problems, termed “post-abortion stress syndrome” by anti-abortion groups. Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize “post-abortion stress syndrome” as a legitimate medical condition.14 Nevertheless, abortion opponents often refer to studies that have been found to have severe methodological flaws or cite anecdotal evidence of this condition in an effort to scare women out of exercising their right to choose.
Several Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantees use the Choosing the Best curricula, including: The Communities in Schools Corpus Christi, Inc., Making the Grade Victoria, and McLennan County Collaborative Abstinence Project (McCAP).15 (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on the Choosing the Best curricula).
One sub-grantee, Colorado Independent School District, uses a variety of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs including Aim for Success, Baby Think It Over, and Why Wait.16 The Baby Think It Over program uses computerized dolls designed to help young people understand the “challenges of parenthood.” Evaluations have found that Baby Think It Over is not effective. The sub-grantee uses the curriculum in the Clark County and Washoe County School Districts with high schools and middle schools. The focus of its program is to educate students about the “the unhealthy effects of teen pregnancy, early parenthood and FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).”17
Another sub-grantee, Fort Bend ALERT (Abstinence Leadership, Education and Resources for Teens), Inc., uses the popular, fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum, WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training. SIECUS reviewed WAIT Training and found that it contained little medical or biological information and almost no information about STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Instead, it contains information and statistics about marriage, many of which are outdated and not supported by scientific research. It also contains messages of fear and shame and biased views of gender, sexual orientation, and family type. For example, WAIT Training explains, “men sexually are like microwaves and women sexually are like crockpots…A woman is stimulated more by touch and romantic words. She is far more attracted by a man’s personality while a man is stimulated by sight. A man is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is physically attracted.”18
Longview Wellness Center, Inc. uses its abstinence-only-until-marriages funds to work in African-American and Hispanic communities.19 The organization uses the FACTS: Family Accountability Communicating Teen Sexuality curricula in its program. SIECUS reviewed these curricula and found that they provide incomplete and inaccurate medical information; present opinions and beliefs as universal truths; and portray a biased view of gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. For example, FACTS includes the following list of negative consequences of premarital sex: “Pregnancy, financial aspect of fatherhood, abortion, HIV/AIDS, STDs, guilt, rejection, loss of reputation, inability to bond in the future, challenge to not compare future sexual partners, alienation from friends and family, poverty, and the inability to complete school.” FACTS also tells young people in no uncertain terms that life begins when sperm and egg meet: “At conception, the baby came into being. Even though he or she was only the size and appearance of a pencil dot, the baby was a separate, genetically unique individual.”20 (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on Longview Wellness Center, Inc.)
Shannon Health System hosts a website (www.rightchoices4youth.org) with information for teens and parents. Under the section, The Top Ten Reasons to Abstainfrom Sex Until You’re Married,” it lists:
10. College, sports, prom, scholarships, friends, graduation, careers, clubs...you have too much to do!
9. It’s much harder to do homework when a baby is crying in the background
8. Birth control isn’t perfect...why risk it?
7. A pet is much easier to care for than a baby
6. Gonorrhea...need we say more? (it just sounds gross!)
5. No regrets
4. Your future spouse will thank you
3. It’s one less thing to argue about with your parents (what you wouldn’t give for that!)
2. Your future is way more important than a couple of minutes
and, the number one reason to abstain until you’re married...
Shannon Health System’s website also provides links to other abstinence-only-until-marriage providers and information about the curriculum it uses, Worth the Wait. (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on Worth the Wait.)
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are eighteen CBAE grantees in Texas. There are seven AFLA grantees in Texas: Austin Learning Academy, Baptist Child and Family Services, Baptist Children’s Home Ministries, Dallas Independent School District, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program (receives two grants), JOVEN– Juvenile Outreach Vocational/Educational Network, and Youth and Family Alliance, Inc. (doing business as Lifeworks).
Families Under Urban and Social Attack, which receives two CBAE grants, operates in the Houston and Harris County areas and offers a number of programs. “HYPE (Helping Youth Prevent Engaging in Risky Behavior) Abstinence Education” is described as a series of community-based workshops that help young people “develop the skills necessary to make a decision to accept sexual abstinence outside of marriage as a behavioral standard and norm.”21
Longview Wellness Center runs the East Texas Abstinence Program (ETAP). The ETAP has five main strategies for promoting its abstinence-only-until-marriage message: a “media blitz” to reach a mass teen audience, a school-based program, a community-based program, youth and adult community coalitions (East Texas Abstinence Coalitions), and special events, such as the Virginity Pledge Day. 22
The media blitz includes commercials containing short snippets from young people discussing virginity and abstinence. In one of the TV spots, “Candice” says that ETAP taught her “to keep my body pure for my future husband.”23 In another TV spot, “David” tells a story about his friend “who thought being abstinent wasn’t important” until “the day she discovered she was pregnant and had HIV. Now, my friend, well, she doesn’t say much of anything. With AIDS and taking care of a 2 year-old, now she’s wishing she made abstinence a very big deal.”24
The media blitz also includes two websites: www.teach2wait.com (geared towards parents and educators) and www.virginityrules.com (aimed at teens). Virginity Rules is an interactive website that includes blogs and short video clips of young people speaking about virginity and abstinence. Visitors to the site can also view the pro-abstinence t-shirts and other merchandise that are available at coalition meetings and events
The site also promotes the East Texas Abstinence Coalitions, community coalitions of adults and youth designed to support young people’s decisions to become and remain abstinent. In order to join a coalition, teens must “attend monthly meeting, sign a membership contract and a virginity pledge.”25 Teachers and church and community leaders are encouraged to invite ETAP coordinators to speak in their classrooms or organizations. Youth members of the coalition are also used to help design other aspects of the media blitz. 26
ETAP’s school-based program uses the FACTS curricula for students in grades five through 12. (See the Title V section for more information on FACTS.) Its community-based programs for students and parents rely on the Choosing the Best series.27
SIECUS reviewed two of the curricula produced by Choosing the Best, Inc.—Choosing the Best LIFE (for high school students) and Choosing the Best PATH (for middle school students). These reviews found that the curricula name numerous negative consequences of premarital sexuality activity and suggest that teens should feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed of sexual behavior. For example, Choosing the Best LIFE states that, “Relationships often lower the self-respect of both partners—one feeling used, the other feeling like the user. Emotional pain can cause a downward spiral leading to intense feelings of lack of worthlessness.” Choosing the Best PATH says, “Sexual activity also can lead to the trashing of a person’s reputation, resulting in the loss of friends.” 28
The Medical Institute (formerly the Medical Institute for Sexual Health) describes itself as a “medical, educational, and research organization” founded “to confront the global epidemics of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).”29 It is a national organization that provides assistance to abstinence-only-until-marriage educators and providers. The Medical Institute was founded in 1992 by Joe McIlhaney, a Texas physician with close ties to the Bush administration. The organization receives federal grants from a number of different government agencies, and its staff and board members have held seats on high-level advisory panels in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).
The Medical Institute produces numerous products for students and educators. One video, “Sex is Not a Game,” is described as providing students “with a high-impact portrayal of the consequences of casual sex.”30
Shannon Health Systems uses CBAE and Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds to run a program called “Right Choices 4 Youth.”31 Right Choices 4 Youth has reached more than 10,000 students throughout 14 school districts in West Central Texas “with abstinence education, character education, and alternative activities to risky behaviors.”32 Right Choices 4 Youth sends instructors into schools using both Choosing the Best and Worth the Wait.33 (See the Title V section for more information on this grantee.)
Worth the Wait, Inc. offers staff development, curricula training, parent education, parent newsletters, student assemblies, presentations to churches and community groups, abstinence-only-until-marriage consulting services, and a teen advisory council.34 The Teen Advisory Council (TAC)’s goal is to “gauge area teens’ perception of Worth the Wait and to create a ‘hip’ image with those teens.”35
Worth the Wait produces a self-titled abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum which is used by organizations and schools across the country. SIECUS reviewed Worth the Wait and found that it covers some important topics related to sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual abuse, and that the curriculum is based on reliable sources of data. Despite these strengths, Worth the Wait relies on messages of fear, discourages contraceptive use, and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum explains, “teenage sexual activity can create a multitude of medical, legal, and economic problems not only for the individuals having sex but for society as a whole.”36
In addition to its own curriculum, Worth the Wait reports using several other abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula in schools, including Teen Aid for students in sixth grade, A.C. Green’s Game Plan for students in seventh grade, Choosing the Best LIFE for students in eighth grade, and Why Am I Tempted (WAIT) Training for students in ninth through twelfth grade.37
Teen-Aid has produced several curricula including Me, My World, My Future and Sexuality, Commitment & Family.38 SIECUS reviewed these curricula and found that they rely on fear and shame, include inaccurate and exaggerated information about condom failure, and contain biased messages about gender, sexual orientation, family structure, and pregnancy options. For example, in one lesson in Sexuality, Commitment & Family, students write an essay titled “If Wombs Had Windows,” in which they speculate how individuals and society might behave differently if “we could see the unborn child developing in the womb.” In the condom lesson from Me, My World, My Future, teachers compare using a condom to playing Russian roulette.39
SIECUS also reviewed Game Plan and found that in order to convince high school students to remain abstinent until marriage, the curriculumrelies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and family structure. In addition, Game Plan fails to provide important information on sexual health including how students can seek testing and treatment if they suspect they may have an STD. Finally, the format and underlying biases of the curriculum do not allow for cultural, community, and individual values, and discourage critical thinking and discussions of alternate points of view in the classroom. For example, Game Plan states that, “Even if you’ve been sexually active, it’s never too late to say no. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. You might feel guilty or untrustworthy, but you can start over again.”40
(See the Title V section for more information on WAIT Training.)
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007