In the Texas State Board of Education’s first comprehensive amendment to their sexual education policy since 1997, the board made a decision that will effect how middle school students learn about sex, according to Aliyya Swaby at the Texas Tribune.
The changes to the policy will not include education on sexual orientation, gender identity or the concept of sexual consent.
The board heard from advocacy groups and educators on forthcoming changes to protocol. The 15-member, Republican-controlled body took a preliminary vote Wednesday to overhaul the minimum standards for what Texas students learn about health and sex, a process that has taken more than a year, the Tribune reported.
In September the board gave preliminary approval to include birth control in the program but leave education about sexual orientation out of it.
On Wednesday, the board held a lengthy debate surrounding whether or not to include lessons on consent, gender identity and sexual orientation. Much of the conversation was centered around language.
The Tribune reported that Republicans have long supported an abstinence-only approach to sexual education, arguing that teaching things like consent opens the door for teenagers to have sex. The notion that teaching consent would pressure teens into sex, as the emphasis on abstinence correlates to federal data, may correlate to Texas consistently having one of the highest birth rates in the country, per CDC statistics.
Board member and Converse Democrat Marisa Perez-Diaz, supported adding more specific language, the Tribune reported.
“[LGBTQ and consent-oriented] language is nowhere to be found anywhere else, and again there’s this lack of awareness and lack of attention to this specific issue,” Perez-Diaz said, according to the Tribune. “I think that the language needs to be more explicit, especially at the middle school area and at a time where our adolescents are experiencing a lot of changes.”
Republicans voted against the use of more explicit language, and instead promoted teaching students to prevent “sexual bullying,” which became a point of contention for the board, as there’s no way to define the phrase, the Tribune reported.
Georgina Pérez, an El Paso Democrat, wanted clarity on the definition of “sexual bullying,” the Tribune reported.
“If we can’t define it, then how do we expect teachers to teach it and students to learn it? If we don’t know what sexual bullying is, then what is a teacher required to teach?”
While the topic of sex education is a contentious one for both political parties, Karma Allen at ABC News reported that Texas doesn’t mandate that schools teach sex education.
The new sexual education policy will come to a final vote Friday.