Dallas Morning News (11.22.11) - Friday, December 09, 2011
More than one-quarter of Texas school districts now offer
"abstinence-plus" sex education instruction, up from 3.6
percent just three years ago, a new study finds.
The study by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a nonprofit
liberal group, used survey data from the Texas Education
Agency. Seven of the 10 largest school districts in the state
- including Fort Worth, Austin and Houston - now teach
contraception in addition to focusing on abstinence, according
to the survey.
"We are encouraged that local policies are beginning to catch
up with public opinion," said TFN President Kathy Miller,
citing a 2010 state poll showing that more than three-fourths
of voters favor teaching abstinence-plus.
A 1995 law requires Texas schools that teach sex education to
emphasize abstinence, though districts can tailor instruction
based on the needs of the students. Until recently, most
districts have elected to teach an abstinence-only curriculum.
"We're seeing the adoption of common-sense sex education
policies that deal with a real public health crisis," said
Miller, noting that Texas has the third-highest teen birth
rate in the nation.
According to TFN, two factors are driving the shift:
*Changes in the "Worth the Wait" program, which is used in
nearly one-fifth of Texas school districts. This curriculum
once emphasized abstinence-only but now includes a "robust"
discussion of contraception. "Students in districts using
Worth the Wait now encounter basic, factual information about
contraception and disease prevention," said the study.
*Growing local support for abstinence-plus programming,
particularly from School Health Advisory Councils, which
comprise health educators, health care providers and parents.