Parent Opt-in Requirements for Sex Education & Abuse Prevention
Parent opt-in forms are already being distributed to students in some Texas school districts. Texas Is Ready is helping to ensure parents/caregivers are aware that the forms have been distributed and that there is a due date for them to be returned to the schools. Additionally, we want parents/caregivers to have all information they need, so we are answering questions such as, "What is the parent opt-in form?" and "What are my rights?"
Parent Opt-In Forms
Texas parents and guardians must now provide written consent to opt their children into instruction on human sexuality and the prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking. Texas is one of just five states in the nation with this requirement for sex education, and the only state with this requirement for abuse prevention instruction.
Why Is Sex Ed Important for Your Child?
There is ample evidence that the physical and emotional health of young people is related to their academic achievement, as healthier students are more likely to stay in school and achieve higher grades, whereas health-related problems may contribute to academic struggles including higher absenteeism and drop-ping out. Evidence reviewed here highlights this point with respect to sexual health. That is, if students are able to avoid early pregnancy, STIs, sexual abuse, and interpersonal violence and harassment, while feeling safe and supported within their school environment, they are more likely to experience academic success, a foundation for future stability.
A large majority of Texas voters across the political spectrum support abstinence-plus, medically-accurate, and age-appropriate sexual health education in schools. A poll released by the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found:
● 75% of poll respondents, including 68% of Republicans, support teaching “abstinence-plus” sex education
● 88% of respondents, including 86% of Republicans, agreed with the statement, “It’s important for students to learn about consent, including respecting the boundaries set by other people about their bodies.”
● Respect is a Texas value. LGBTQ youth are bullied at higher rates than their peers and subsequently have higher rates of mental health issues and suicidality. In this poll, 75% of Texans, including 65% of Republicans, agree with the statement that, “To help prevent bullying of LGBTQ youth, Texas public schools should include standards around cultivating respect for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.”
Under new Texas law:
Permission forms must be sent out at least 14 days prior to instruction.
Permission forms may not be sent out with any forms or notifications other than the required parent notification for sex education OR abuse prevention instruction.
Under state law, the consent form for human sexuality instruction and the consent form for instruction on prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking may not be sent together. The new law does not consider the fact that many districts include abuse prevention as part of sex education.
Forms must be sent out for instruction on human sexuality instruction, which state law defines as including "instruction in reproductive health." Statute does not clearly define all situations where opt-in forms may be required. For example, it's unclear if this includes biology classes covering content on the reproductive system.
For more check out, “How did the Legislative Session impact sex education?”
Under the Texas Education Code 28.004, parents have the right to:
Have a say in which sex ed curriculum is adopted. Parents, guardians, and community members may attend the two public meetings of the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) prior to a sex ed curriculum recommendation being made to the school board, and may attend and provide public comment at the school board meeting at which the sex ed curriculum is adopted.
Decide whether or not their child will receive sex education. From 2021 - 2023, parents must provide written consent to opt their children into sex education. Parents can also choose to opt their children into some lessons but opt out of other lessons. Schools may not penalize the student in any way for opting out of any sex ed classes.
Receive notification of what sex education will be provided. Schools must provide written notifications to parents with detailed information on what the sex ed curriculum will include and a general schedule on which the content will be provided. The notice must also include an overview of state law around sex education; a statement of the parent's right to review curriculum materials; information on how parents can be involved in the SHAC process; and a statement of parents' rights to use the grievance or appeals process.
Review all sex education curriculum materials. Under new laws, parents or guardians may review all sex ed curriculum materials at their child's home campus or request that electronic materials be shared electronically. If school districts are using public domain (non-copyrighted) materials, they must post those materials online. For purchase agreements entered into after Sept. 1, 2021, schools must ensure that parents can purchase curriculum materials at the same price paid by the school.
File a grievance or appeal if any of these rights are violated.