Monday, November 9, 2009

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Follow Up

Updated November 9, 2009 @ 11:05 P.M.
In June and July of this year this blog published a five part series of articles on sex education in Collin Co. ISDs. In this series we reported that the largest school districts in Collin County focus either heavily or exclusively on "abstinence only" instruction in their public schools.

Then, in September, the The Austin American-Statesman and KBTX-TV in College Station echoed our five part series by reporting that Texas currently has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and “the highest rate of repeat teen births.” The Statesman also echoed our series saying that not only has the teen birth rate climbed in Texas under "abstinence only" instruction, but sexually transmitted disease rates are up too.

Today, the Dallas Morning News published a story titled, "Texas sex educators take tentative steps beyond abstinence" that also echoes our five part series on sex ed in Collin County school districts.
By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News - Monday, November 9, 2009

Parents at the McKinney school district's curriculum information night were talking condoms. And some were frustrated that district officials weren't.

"Where would I find it?" McKinney mother Melissa Willardson asked as she searched for "condoms" in the glossary of a state-approved health textbook. "Where's the word?"

Her response – consternation rather than headstrong support for the district's approach – is becoming increasingly prevalent in North Texas schools traditionally known for their staunch abstinence-only approach.

Click here to go the full Dallas Morning News Story
Original follow up to our series noting the Austin American-Statesman story - posted September 30, 2009

Our series reported that:
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) a Texas teen gets pregnant every 10 minutes. Texas Medicaid paid for 17,322 deliveries to teen mothers aged 13-17 in 2007 and according to National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy data, teen childbearing (teens 19 and younger) costs Texas taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $1 billion annually. That $1 billion annual payment is on top of the $21 million dollars in federal and state tax payer money spent annually on government sponsored abstinence-only sex education that is increasing rather decreasing Texas teen pregnancy rates.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas received almost $18 million in federal "abstinence-only" funding in 2007, matched by $3 million in state funds in that year. While Republican Gov. Rick Perry rejected federal "economic stimulus" money in 2009, meant to aid unemployed Texans, Gov. Perry has said he supports Texas' abstinence-only sex ed programs, which have been largely funded by federal money. "The governor is comfortable with current law and supports abstinence programs," said Gov. Perry's spokeswoman, Allison Castle. [Houston Chronicle]

The Texas education code does not require public schools to offer sex education. But if they do, the teaching plan must be abstinence-focused, and instruction about contraceptives must be couched in terms of how often they fail.
Now the The Austin American-Statesman and KBTX-TV in College Station echo our stories reporting that Texas currently has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and “the highest rate of repeat teen births.”
Texas also leads the nation in the amount of government money it spends on abstinence-only education. But some school districts in the state are now shifting away from that approach, admitting that it isn’t working: “We mainly did it because of our pregnancy rate,” said Whitney Self, lead teacher for health and physical education at the Hays Consolidated Independent School District. “We don’t think abstinence-only is working.” [...]

Both approaches to sex education teach that refraining from sexual activity is the safest choice for teens.

But abstinence-only gives limited information about contraceptives and condoms and tends to downplay their effectiveness, while abstinence-plus stresses the importance of using such protection if teens are sexually active.
Medical experts have concluded that not only do abstinence-only programs not curb teen pregnancy, but “there is evidence to suggest that some of these programs are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active.”

When will Collin County school districts see the light and being to shift from the abstinence-only education program to an abstinence-plus program?

Abstinence-plus programs stress pre-marital abstinence as the best choice, but also providing accurate information on safe sex and planned parenting options, which fully prepares teens for adult life decisions.

You can make a difference by joining your local School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).

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.

Information on Collin County SHACs can be found in our post at Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 5.

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