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Advocates hope the Texas education board will approve new textbooks that include lessons on sexuality

Sonia Bonet

Last year, the Texas State Board of Education signed off on teaching middle school students about other forms of birth control aside from abstinence. It was thefirst time the statewide health curriculum standards had been updated in more than 20 years.

At the time, the Republican-dominated board also rejected including information about gender identity and sexual orientation.

A left-leaning advocacy group is now hoping the board will this week approve instructional materials in public schools that include lessons on sexuality.

“This week’s vote is about whether the State Board will turn back the clock to the culture wars of the past or help our schools teach Texas kids the truth and give them the information they need to make healthy decisions for their lives,” Val Benavidez, p resident of the Texas Freedom Network, sa id during a press conference.

On Tuesday, the state board of education kicked off aseries of meetings, which include discussions on how climate change and sex education are taught for certain grade levels.

Dozens of people testified for hours that day, speaking specifically on the sex education aspect of theproposed instructional materials.

Vivianna Perez was one of the few to speak in support, driving from Houston to Austin to do so. Perez, who grew up with a single father, said when it came to puberty and sexual orientation, she felt lost as a child.

“What I hope for is that in the future, a child can open a textbook in their classroom, and easily turn to Page 36, and find the answers that they’re looking for, because I wished that would have been something I had the opportunity to look for,” Perez sa id.

Most of the people at Tuesday’s meeting testified against the board approving the instructional materials, citing concerns over how sexual orientation, abortion, and mental health are presented.

Texas State Board of Education meeting livestream.

Shannon Jaquette, the policy and education analyst at the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, was one of the many who spoke in opposition, calling out one publisher in particular.

The publishers of these textbooks are Goodheart-Willcox, Human Kinetics, QuaverEd, and Lessonbee, Inc.

“Lessonbee is the most egregious option,” Jaquette s aid. “It shares contact information with seventh and eighth graders for Planned Parenthood and Jane’s Due Process, an organization that assists minors in obtaining an abortion without the consent of their parents.”

Monica Tinoco Bosan, a mother of three elementary school students, was one of the parents who also had issues with the proposed materials.

“There are a few from QuaverEd that I will bring up: telling second graders that if they are blue, they need to see a counselor, telling third graders to meditate as a coping skill, telling children that babies are only called babies once they are born…and so much more,” Tinoco Bosan testified. “Why should the state expose my children to these types of topics?”

Meanwhile, the State Board of education took a preliminary vote Tuesday, voting against most of the materials. But, that still allows publishers to make changes, which could shift some votes ahead of the final vote Friday.

The Texas Newsroom’s Becky Fogel contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.