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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
TEXAS: Texas School Districts Shifting Away from Abstinence- Only Sex Education
Terrence Stutz
December 9, 2011
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.

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