Monday, July 27, 2009

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 5


This is Part 5 of a 5 part series on the state of sexuality health education in Collin County based on the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study, “Just Say Don’t kNOw” by Dr. David Wiley, Dr. Kelly Wilson and Ryan Valentine. A copy of the study can be found online at The series is researched and written by Linda Magid.

In Part 1 of our series, we gave an overview of the state of sex education in Texas. In Part 2, we looked at how the Texas Education Code deals with sexuality health and what is and isn’t covered in Allen, Frisco, McKinney and Plano ISD classrooms. In part 3 we turned to a frank discussion of the Factual Errors, Lies and Distortions about Condoms and STDs taught in these Collin County school districts. In part 4 we covered how abstinence-only programs base their educational philosophy on fear and shame about sex.
Now, in part 5 we cover who makes the decisions about what is taught in sex ed classrooms and how parents can get involved to help make those decisions.
Sexual Health Education Is Controversial

Parents, teachers, school board members and legislatures have their opinion about what should be taught and at what age.

Texas Legislature defined the roles of state government and local government in Senate Bill 1 (SB1) in 1995 by including the requirement that every school district establish a School Health Advisory Council (SHAC). SB1 also included general guidelines for sexuality education instructions while at the same time charging SHACs with the responsibility of making recommendations to local school boards. Local school boards must listen to both the SHACs and the Texas Education Code while deciding what to teach resulting in a diverse and inconsistent array of instructional materials – guaranteeing that teens across the state are learning different information and likely incorrect information. (“Just Say Don’t kNOw,” Wiley, Wilson and Valentine, pg. 11)

In their study, Wiley, Wilson and Valentine discovered that SHACs are, for the most part, inactive in the area of sexuality health education. Across Texas,
  • 64.7% of school districts indicated their SHACs had not discussed the topic of sexuality education in the previous three years.
  • 80.5% of school districts could not produce any formal SHAC recommendation on sexuality education instructions.
  • 24.8% of districts reported no formal policy at all governing sexuality education – teachers are addressing the sensitive topic of sexuality health education with no guidance or protection from their local school board. (Wiley et al., pg 11-12)
Even for those ISDs with a “functioning” SHAC [“meets regularly and demonstrates an effort to address issues assigned by the Texas Education Code” (Wiley et al. pg 12)], those committees do not guarantee informed, evidence-based recommendations on sexuality education instruction (Wiley, et al., pg. 12). The primary duty of a SHAC is to recommend the number of hours of instruction, appropriate grade levels and methods of instruction for human sexuality education but the TEC does not guarantee that those on the council know how to do this. According to the TFN Education Fund report,
“The TEC includes no requirements that SHAC members have a background in health education, sexuality education, medicine, child development, curriculum evaluation or any other professional background or training that helps prepare a council to make informed recommendations to the local board of trustees.” (pg 12)
With SHACs full of well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers, Texas schools end up with contradicting sexual health information, non-compliance with relevant state law, placing the interest of teachers before the health of students and sometimes putting an ISD in legal hot water.

Perhaps the most damaging impact to our teens is that members of SHACs are mandated to review sexuality health programs for recommendation to the local school board but if the members are not health experts, they can easily be mislead by terrific presentations full of factual errors, misleading information, inappropriate religious content and all manner of other flaws. (Wiley, et al., pg. 14)

Members of SHACs might be enthusiastic about their roles in students’ health, and rightly so. Putting children on a positive track to good health is a real contribution to society. Unfortunately, since the statute establishing SHACs has been rewritten several times, the committee’s role in designing student health curricula on other topics has been expanded (nutrition, exercise, mental health, etc.) and perhaps has watered down the importance of sexuality health education as the primary reason for the SHAC to exist.

The following is information on SHACs in Plano, Allen, Frisco and McKinney. You will find how active (or inactive) the SHACs are and where to find more information or even apply to join these SHACs. (All information on SHAC activity was provided by Texas Freedom Network, which they obtained directly from the school districts under the Freedom of Information Act.)

Plano SHAC
  • addressed sexuality education within the last 3 years.
  • did not make a recommendation to the school board for sexuality education.
  • internet link ( to SHAC explanation and list of members (includes committee application download at top of page) No information on when the council meets or the meeting location available.
  • Questions about SHAC (when they meet, for example) are directed to the communications office at (469) 752-8150.
Frisco SHAC
  • addressed sexuality education within the last 3 years.
  • did not make a recommendation to the school board for sexuality education.
  • website ( says the council meets twice annually. Content under Human Sexuality section is taken directly from the Texas Education Code Section 28.004 “Local School Health Advisory Council and Health Education Instruction” The website offers no clear way to contact the SHAC members or to apply for a seat on the council.
  • Call the FISD at 469.633.6000 for information.
Allen SHAC
  • The SHAC addressed sexuality education within the last 3 years.
  • The SHAC made a recommendation to the school board for sexuality education.
  • No information online.
  • Allen's SHAC meets twice per year, in November and February. The council is not limited in number, but there are mandated percentages of the makeup – i.e. parents, staff, clergy, etc. The positions are appointed and you need to be nominated by a school principal, or people can apply directly to Mariba Zoller at 972-396-6936.
McKinney SHAC
  • addressed sexuality education within the last 3 years.
  • made a recommendation to the school board for sexuality education.
  • March 14, 2005 SHAC took vote to recommend health texts (noted that teachers and parent have access to the web site which will have updated current health issues)
  • November 29, 2005 SHAC had Jeff Friedel, Choosing the Best, gave presentation and discussed changes made to the program from the previous time the committee had viewed 2 years ago. Committee had lengthy discussion. The committee agrees that the sex education needs to be curriculum based, not just a one time shot as AIM for Success has been.
  • February 2, 2006 “Over the past two years the committee has been reviewing potential programs that deal with abstinence based sex education. After reviewing several programs, the committee recommends Choosing the Best as the best overall program for McKinney ISD.
  • (Agendas/Minutes provided from March 28, 2005)
  • website information ( provides only one sentence on council’s function, which does not include sexuality health education. Provides meeting dates through the past school year but has not yet updated for next school year.
  • Contact Julie Blankenship, committee chairperson by e-mail at or by phone at 469-742-4151 for questions and, we assume, to apply for a position on the SHAC.
As reported in this blog ("Tough Calls On Sex Education In Texas Schools"), Texas received almost $18 million in federal "abstinence-only" funding in 2007, matched by $3 million in state funds in that year. Federal abstinence-only education funding reached a maximum level of approximately $214 million per year during President Bush's second term in 2008. (Abstinence-only advocates don’t want you to know that. See "Abstinence-Only Education Supporters Reference Inaccurate And Out Dated Facts")

While statistics on teen pregnancy in Collin County goes only up to 2004, recent studies from multiple sources show that after falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers again started to increase after 2005. The teen birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1992 and 2005, according to National Center for Health Statistics. Those numbers correlate with the increase in abstinence-only funding by the Bush administration. WE should expect that Texas sees an increase of the same numbers, perhaps an even larger increase.

All of these statistics prove that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. Thankfully the Obama administration knows that and that why sexual health funding includes contraception information in his new budget. The budget still needs to be passed and that part of the budget will absolutely get flack from Conservatives and conservative Democrats. We will need to be diligent in keeping that section in the budget. (This blog has an entry questioning how Texas will change with the new Obama budget at "Tough Calls On Sex Education In Texas Schools")

Currently, Texas schools are no longer mandated to teach health education with the legislature claiming budget constraints. This is a double edges sword, however. On the one hand, if ISDs cut out health they cut out misinformation to teens but on the other hand teens still won’t get the support they need to live a healthy life.

Health classes don’t need motivational speakers and complicated role-playing exercises to learn that using a condom is 98% effective against pregnancy and STDs. Teens need you, their parents, to get involved on their behalf and press the SHACs and school boards to stop using federal and state money on misinformation and scare tactics and get back to the facts. Here is how you can get involved:
  1. Request workbooks and textbooks. Review then and make notes on questionable material. Present these concerns in writing to your SHAC and school board. Use the CDC ( and the Health Education Curriculum Anlaysis Tool ( for support.
  2. Ask SHCAC and the school board to vet speakers if they haven’t.
  3. Apply for a SHAC appointment
  4. Attend school board meetings especially when the agenda includes sexual health curriculum decisions or discussions. Expect them to review current health classes and whether or not to continue them.
  5. Encourage medical professionals to participate in SHAC recommendations.
  6. Join TFN for state updates on sexual health matters
  7. Support Obama’s budget when it comes up for a vote in the U.S. legislature.
Texas teens need us to stand up for them. They need information, not moral lectures and misinformation, to keep them healthy. Not just while they are in high school, but for the rest of their lives.

Click to read part-1, part-2, part-3 and part-4

Related Posts:

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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