Thursday , 21 September 2017

State Senator Paxton’s Push for New Sex Education Rules in Texas Schools Stirs Local Debate

By Ben Lane, TSB Staff

A bill co-authored by Ken Paxton is causing quite a stir throughout the state of Texas. The State Senator from McKinney has put forth a bill that would change the way sexual education is taught in Texas’ schools.

The Texas Parental Control and Accountability Act, referred to as SB 521, states that “an entity or individual that performs abortions, or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions, may not provide human sexuality or family planning instruction or instructional materials for use in human sexuality or family planning instruction in a public school.”

To put it into simpler terms, the bill would ban organizations that provide abortions from providing any student with sexual education in a Texas public school.

The bill would also require advanced parental notification and the schools to require written parental consent if anyone other than a school district employee is set to teach human sexuality or family planning in school, even if that person is a medical professional. The written consent form must be returned to the school no later than 14 days before the date of the actual visit from the outside personnel. A copy of SB 521 is below and available here.

In a statement to TownSquareBuzz.com, Paxton said of the bill, “SB 521 promotes parental rights by reinforcing the current laws regarding sexual education curriculum. The bill requires parental consent for individuals not employed by the school district to teach sexual education curriculum, thus providing parents with more control over their child’s education on this subject. Current law requires school districts to provide notice of intent to teach sexual education classes; this bill simply allows for more parental involvement regarding human sexuality education when it is taught by anyone other than school district personnel.”

That would a represent a big change in McKinney. Current McKinney school board policy (available online) states “before each school year, the District shall provide written notice to a parent of each student enrolled in the District of the Board’s decision regarding whether the District will provide human sexuality instruction to District students.”

The policy also states parents will be provided with a summary of the content of the human sexuality instruction and that parents are able to review the curriculum materials if they desire. A copy of the McKinney school board’s policy on sexual education is below.

Critics of Paxton’s bill claim that the bill appears to be taking direct aim at Planned Parenthood. One McKinney parent who has two children in MISD schools and requested not to be identified by name said of Paxton’s bill, “It’s just another GOP ‘we hate Planned Parenthood’ move and has nothing to do with sex education.”

This parent also feels that Texas (and many other states) spends far too much time debating issues like this, prayer in school, and creationism versus evolution, instead of focusing on finding ways to improve the math and science abilities of children or helping them excel. “These topics get in the way of real progress,” the parent said.

Other critics feel that Paxton’s bill is unnecessary. Dr. Sandra Froese is a family counselor in McKinney with two grandchildren in McKinney schools. She was also a school administrator in Sherman for more than 30 years. She told TSB about how she handled outside sexual education personnel in her time in Sherman. “We carefully screened outside presenters to make sure that they had a comprehensive medical and/or healthcare background, that they understood the community culture, and that they followed the state curriculum for age-appropriate sexual health.”

Dr. Froese felt the need to use outside personnel because “most public school district personnel do not have a medical or healthcare background–except for the one school nurse who has other duties and responsibilities and very little time for class presentations.”

She also said that if parents were uncomfortable with any of the information given to their children they “have always had the option of requesting that their child or teen not participate in the sexual health presentations.”

McKinney’s parents also have the option to remove their children from sexual education classes if they desire. School board policy states that parents have the right to remove their student “without subjecting the student to any disciplinary action, academic penalty, or other sanction imposed by the District or the student’s school.”

SB 521 was passed by the education committee in the Texas Senate last week and is now progressing as part of the 2013 legislative agenda in Austin. A vote on the bill should come later this year. If the Texas Senate passes the bill, it will become statewide policy for the 2013-2014 school year.

Text of SB 521:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT

relating to the provision of and parental approval for a student’s participation in human sexuality and family planning instruction in public schools.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 28.004, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsections (e-1), (e-2), and (i-2) to read as follows:
(e-1) An entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions may not provide human sexuality or family planning instruction or instructional materials for use in human sexuality or family planning instruction in a public school.
(e-2) For purposes of Subsection (e-1), “affiliate” means an entity or individual that has a legal relationship with another entity or individual that is created or governed by at least one written instrument that demonstrates:
(1) common ownership, management, or control;
(2) the existence of a franchise; or
(3) the granting or extension of a license or other agreement that authorizes the affiliate to use the entity’s or individual’s brand name, trademark, service mark, or other registered identification mark.
(i-2) Before a student may be provided with human sexuality or family planning instruction from an entity or individual other than an employee of a school district, the district must obtain the written consent of the student’s parent or guardian. A request for written consent under this subsection:
(1) may not be included with any other notification or request for written consent provided to the parent or guardian;
(2) must be provided to the parent or guardian not later than the 14th day before the date on which the human sexuality or family planning instruction begins; and
(3) must include the information described by Subsection (i)(1) and the name of the entity or individual who will provide the instruction.
SECTION 2. This Act applies beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2013.

Copy of McKinney School Board Policy on Sexual Education:

CONTENT OF HUMAN SEXUALITY INSTRUCTION

The Board shall determine the specific content of the District’s in-struction in human sexuality.

The Board shall select any instruction relating to human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) with the ad-vice of the local school health advisory council. The instruction must:

1. Present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior for unmarried persons of school age;

2. Devote more attention to abstinence than to any other behavior;

3. Emphasize that abstinence is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, infection with HIV or AIDS, and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity;

4. Direct adolescents to a standard of behavior in which abstinence before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and infection with HIV or AIDS; and

5. Teach contraception and condom use in terms of human use reality rates instead of theoretical laboratory rates, if instruction on contraception and condoms is included in the curriculum.

CONDOMS

The District may not distribute condoms in connection with instruction relating to human sexuality. Education Code 28.004(f)

SEPARATE CLASSES

If the District provides human sexuality instruction, it may separate students according to sex for instructional purposes. Education Code 28.004(g) [See FB regarding single-sex classes under Title IX]

NOTICE TO PARENTS

Before each school year, the District shall provide written notice to a parent of each student enrolled in the District of the Board’s deci-sion regarding whether the District will provide human sexuality instruction to District students. If instruction will be provided, the notice must include:

1. A summary of the basic content of the District’s human sexu-ality instruction to be provided to the student, including a statement informing the parent of the instructional requirements under state law;

2. A statement of the parent’s right to:

a. Review curriculum materials as provided by Education Code 28.004(j); and

b. Remove the student from any part of that instruction without subjecting the student to any disciplinary action, academic penalty, or other sanction imposed by the District or the student’s school; and

c. Information describing the opportunities for parental involvement in the development of the curriculum to be used in human sexuality instruction, including information regarding the local school health advisory council.

A parent may use the grievance procedure at FNG concerning a complaint of a violation of notice requirements.

AVAILABILITY OF MATERIALS

The District shall make all curriculum materials used in human sexuality instruction available for reasonable public inspection. Education Code 28.004(j) [See EFAA regarding selection of cur-riculum materials for human sexuality instruction]

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