Texas Rep. files bill to expand sex education

Sex education in Texas schools

AUSTIN, Texas – On Feb. 14, the day everyone talks about love, state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, called a news conference to have a little chat about the birds and the bees.

"We say we don't want abortion but we're also not providing sex education that will limit teen pregnancy," Gonzalez said. 

That's where House Bill 1547 comes in. Gonzalez' bill will require sex education classes teach age-appropriate, evidence-based information on birth control in addition to abstinence.

"If we know we have a problem in Texas with STIs and teen pregnancy, don't we have the obligation to have the conversation about whether or not our sex education curriculum is working?" she added.

A new study from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) found the current curriculum isn't working.

"We routinely are in the top five nationwide in teen birth rates," said Dr. David Wiley, professor of sex education at Texas State University and founder of the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. "We are consistently exceeding national averages in every category of sexual risk taking among youth in the U.S." 

Wiley worked on TFN's initial sex education study in 2009 and the current report. This time around researchers looked at 150 school districts across Texas, including the top 10 largest districts, and found 58.3 percent teach abstinence only, 25.1 percent don't teach sex education at all and only 16.6 percent teach students about condoms, mostly in urban districts. 

"The concept is if we don't teach kids about condoms or we scare kids that condoms don't work, then they won't have sex. When in reality research shows they just have sex without condoms," said Wiley. 

And a lot of them are having sex. Six out of 10 high school seniors admitted to having sex at least once. So Gonzalez and the TFN say the responsibility of teaching factual sex ed can't be left solely to parents.

"Most of the people in this room probably did not have a really good talk with their parents about sexual health because your parents didn't have a very good talk with their parents about sexual health. So in many cases we're asking parents to do something they're not very well trained at," said Wiley. 

And Wiley added there are flaws with teaching abstinence-only.

"Many of these programs, abstinence-only programs, equate pre-marital sex with death, clinical depression, suicide. It's just rampant, the negative stereotypes," he said. "In many of these curriculums the people who are abstinent are seen to be morally superior to kids who are sexually active."

"Abstinence-only programs promote gender stereotypes. Specifically that women are the gate keepers of sexual activity and it's up to women to control this because boys will be boys."

Wiley added those classes also leave out education for LGBTQ students.

He and the TFN propose that schools teach facts, figures and data and parents should be in charge of morality and values.

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