About Sex Education in Texas
In November 2020, for the first time in more than two decades, the State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted new minimum curriculum standards that guide sex education in Texas. These newly adopted Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, for Health Education include many improvements. Health Education is an elective at the high school level but required in middle school, and key topics will now be offered at the middle school level. New TEKS include:
Basic information on key topics like anatomy, puberty, and reproduction.
Information on contraception, condoms, and prevention, screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The importance of abstinence.
Standards on healthy relationships, such as prevention of sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and in support of topics such as healthy communication. While the standards teach the importance of respecting the boundaries of other people, they do not include consent.
Standards do not include language acknowledging LGBTQ students.
You can read the new Health Education TEKS here.
Sex education is not a paritisan issue. Texas voters across the political spectrum support medically accurate, age-appropriate, “abstinence-plus” sex education.
In March 2020, the Texas Campaign commissioned a poll of registered Texas voters to understand how Texans feel about school-based sex education. The results were clear:
75% of registered Texas voters, including 68% of Republicans, support teaching abstinence-plus sex education, defined as curricula that "teaches students abstinence is the safest choice, but also provides medically accurate information about topics such as contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships."
88% of Texas voters, including 86% of Republicans, agree that “It’s important for students to learn about consent, including respecting the boundaries set by other people about their bodies.”
75% of Texas voters, including 65% of Republicans, agree 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.”
Methodology: The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy contracted with the firm Baselice & Associates to conduct a public opinion poll on sex education in Texas public schools. On March 3 – 10, 2020, a representative sample of 601 registered Texas voters were contacted over the phone and online. The margin of error in results is +/- 4%.
What does the research say about Sex Education?
There are many of misconceptions about sex education, but the research is strong that medically accurate sex education benefits youth.
Sex education is often associated with a delay in sexual activity
Sex education makes kids more likely to have sex.
Parents should be the first and most important teacher for their children. But just as we get help teaching kids algebra or writing, many parents appreciate help teaching kids about healthy relationships and reproductive health.
We don’t need school-based sex ed, as parents can teach kids everything they need to know.
It’s best if youth have information about healthy relationships and pregnancy prevention well before they need it, so they can be prepared. And even if teens aren’t sexually active in high school, knowing basic facts about how their bodies work is just common sense.
If they’re not having sex now, kids don’t need this type of education.
What does state law say about sex education?
Most of our laws about sex education are found in Section 28.004 of the Texas Education Code. Major changes were made to sex education statute in 2021.
These laws cover the following topics:
School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs): The law creates SHACs, which are parent and community volunteer groups charged with ensuring that local community values are reflected in health education instruction.
Curriculum adoption: State law requires sex education curriculum to be adopted by school boards on the recommendation of SHACs. School boards must adopt a policy establishing a process for the adoption of sex ed curriculum materials, including a resolution directing the school health advisory council (SHAC) to make recommendations; and adopting the curriculum at a public board meeting.
Sex education content: Instruction related to human sexuality must stress abstinence from sexual activity for students as the preferred and safest choice of behavior. If education on contraception and condoms is included, schools must teach "human use reality rates" regarding efficacy.
Parent rights: Parent have the right to review and purchase sex education curriculum. They must be notified about sex education that will be provided to their children. As of 2021, parents must provide written permission to opt their children into sex education.
What laws don't include: Sex education in Texas is not required under statute, although school districts must deliver Health Education TEKS at the elementary and middle school levels. Health Education class is elective at the high school level. Information is not required in statute to be medically accurate.
Texas law lays out the process for school districts to adopt sex education curriculum.
The ISD board issues a resolution directing the school health advisory council (SHAC) to make recommendations
The SHAC reviews sex education curriculum, holds two public meetings, and makes a recommendation to the board.
The school board adopts the curriculum at a public meeting.