Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 1

Editor's Note: This is the first of a five part series of articles about sexuality health education curricula found in Collin County school districts, researched and written by Linda Magid.

In February 2009, Texas Freedom Network announced that the Texas school system is failing to protect our students.

Based on a year-long study on sexuality health education in Texas schools titled “Just Say Don’t kNOw”, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (the research arm of TFN) has established that, statewide, curricula are based almost exclusively on abstinence-only textbooks and programs. These tools for teaching teens are misinforming (and sometimes blatantly lying to) students on how they can protect themselves from the risks of sexual activity if they choose to be sexually active.

The alternative program, abstinence-plus, which prepares teens for adult life decisions by presenting pre-marital abstinence as the best choice while providing accurate information on planned parenting options, is rarely taught in Texas schools.

In a nutshell, Texas teens leave high school and enter adult life unprepared for pregnancy prevention, defense against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and general sexual health issues beyond abstinence.

While TFN has claimed for years that this kind of insufficient and potentially damaging education is going on, their report is the first to tally information directly from the school districts. 990 out of 1,031 school districts participated in the survey, a total of 96%. Of those 990, 94% use abstinence-only materials, 3.6% us abstinence-plus materials, and 2.3% skip sex education all together.

As a result of their research, Authors Dr. David Wiley and Dr. Kelly Wilson definitively declare, “Abstinence-only programs have a stranglehold on sexuality education in Texas public schools.”

None of the ISDs who use abstinence-plus materials are in Collin County. What do our schools use, then? And what can the report tell us about what our students learn in school regarding sexual health education?

Over the course of several segments, this blog will present what “Just Say Don’t kNOw” uncovers about the sexuality health education in Allen, McKinney, Plano and Frisco ISDs. We will also discover how effective our School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) are in guiding the local School Boards on this topic. Lastly, we will offer suggestions on how to change the current trend of fear and misinformation in our health classrooms.

First, let’s look at how Texas fares in comparison to the rest of the country. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, “young Texans overall rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behavior” (Just Say Don’t kNOw, pg. 1). Behavior such as:
  • Having sexual intercourse (52.9% of Texan Teens vs. 47.8% national average);
  • Having intercourse with four or more people (17.1% vs. 14.9%); and
  • Not using a condom the last time they had intercourse (43.6% vs. 38.5%).
What is the result of so many Texas children engaging in sexually risky behavior? In 2006, Texas had the third highest teen birth rate in the country, an increase from 2005. In addition, Texas taxpayers spend an estimated $1 billion annually for the cost of teen childrearing. In 2008, Chlamydia cases among Collin County teens were up a staggering 27%. (Texas Department of State Health Services)

Second, let’s talk about the difference between abstinence-only sexuality health education and abstinence-plus. According to the TFN report,
“Abstinence-only sexuality education programs present abstinence as the only choice of acceptable behavior for unmarried youth.” (pg.7)
Currently, abstinence-only programs avoid discussing condoms and other contraception or they offer false and misleading information on contraceptives’ ability to offer risk protection (most specifically, condoms).

Abstinence-only proponents claim that telling teens how to have safe sex is akin to telling them to go and have sex. Texas teen birth statistics show clearly that teens are having sex regardless of what teachers tell them. The 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that over 50% of Texas high school students reported having engaged in sexual intercourse at least once. (Just Say Don’t kNOw, pg. 8)

Across the country, abstinence-only programs are failing. According to the latest CDC report published March 18, 2009, “the birth rate for U.S. teenagers 15-19 years rose again in 2007 by about 1 percent, to 42.5 births per 1,000.” President Bush only offered Federal Title V compensation to schools teaching abstinence-only programs. Many schools across the country, already cash-strapped, took the bait to offset expenses. (Texas receives the most federal abstinence dollars - $18 million in 2007 alone.) We can now see the results.

On the other hand, abstinence-plus programs offer abstinence as the best choice to protect oneself but deals with the reality that not all students are going to make that choice. Programs in this category urge abstinence from pre-marital sex while teaching teens the facts of life to prepare them for adult life decisions. For example, abstinence-plus programs teach students who choose to be sexually active how to protect themselves from STDs by giving them medically accurate information based on studies done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

If, then, Collin County’s largest ISDs follow a strict abstinence-only sexuality health program, what are students learning? According to the research done by TFN, Texas students are victims of the abstinence-only “conspiracy of silence.” In the series that follows, you will see that Collin County is as silent as the rest of Texas on the topic of sexual health.

While our series will focus on ISDs in Allen, McKinney, Plano and Frisco, Collin County contains many other smaller school districts. School districts that reside exclusively in Collin County includes:
  • Allen ISD
  • Anna ISD
  • Blue ridge ISD
  • Celina ISD
  • Community ISD
  • Farmersville ISD
  • Frisco ISD
  • Lovejoy ISD
  • Mckinney ISD
  • Melissa ISD
  • Plano ISD
  • Princeton ISD
  • Prosper ISD
  • Wylie ISD
School districts that are shared between Collin County and other counties include portions of:
  • Bland ISD
  • Gunter ISD
  • Leonard ISD
  • Royse city ISD
  • Trenton ISD
  • Van alstyne ISD
  • Whitewright ISD
What do the schools in your school district teach?

Related Postings:
Additional Reading:
The Texas Democratic Women of Collin Co. Will Host Guest Speaker Kathy Miller, Pres. Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, At The Group's Meeting On Monday, July 27, 2009. Ms. Miller will talk about the Education Fund's year-long study on sexuality health education in Texas public schools. See the "Calendar Box" in the left sidebar of this blog for more details.

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