A Reform in Sexual Education

Shane Edghill, Reporter

It was just another day in eighth grade health class that Neil Gupta attended. However, there was instruction on sexual education. While other students in his classes were either laughing uncontrollably or shying away from the topic uncomfortably, Gupta felt that the instruction and the experience overall was not that uncomfortable for him.

“[My middle school had a] representative from a sexual health clinic down in McKinney, and they gave us the whole lecture,” Gupta said.

In his middle school health class, Health Occupations Students of America (H.O.S.A.) junior Gupta learned about sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.s) and sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.D.s) and the differences between them.

The instructors also covered age of consent and abstinence and forms of contraception such as birth control and condoms. the students were free to ask questions. According to The Texas Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Texas is one of many states that do not enforce a requirement for sexual education or comprehensive learning about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.s) and sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.D.s).

If a school or district chooses to teach any topic concerning sex-ed procedures, that school or district is required to highlight the importance of chastity or abstinence from sex until marriage.

In recent years, though, there have been some changes and reforms to the sex-ed programs in Texas. The last reformation in sexual education standards was made in 1997, and only in 2020, have there been changes to the standards of sex-ed protocols. 


Being Decisive

In November, the Texas Board of Education reached a decision to allow public school districts to teach seventh and eighth grade students about birth control and methods of contraception, such as the use of condoms and oral contraception. 

Prior to that, the standards required instructors to inform students about abstinence and its importance. 

Health teacher Kimberly Crowley believes that all students should receive benefits from these types of programs.

In her health class, the topics discussed range from the anatomy of the human reproductive systems to puberty and development to P.A.P.A. (Parenting and Paternity Awareness) program. This program replaces sex education in the sense that having a child is a responsibility; that it entitles certain financial, legal and environmental requirements that the parent(s) must abide by.

“We really don’t use the term ‘sex education’ anymore. That term is actually extremely dated. We focus more on the Parenting and Paternity Awareness terms in explaining financial [and] legal responsibilities [that come with having a child],” Crowley said.

Allyson Waller for The New York Times in her article “Texas Board Revises Sex Education Standards to Include More Birth Control”, reported that Democratic board member Ruben Cortez Jr. feels that there should be newer, more extensive policies that include LGBTQ+ students receiving benefits from sexual education programs.

According to the report, Cortez proposed amendments that would require students to define and differentiate between sexual orientation and gender identity. The report also required teachers to cover bullying related to bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Marty Rowley, a Republican vice chair of the Texas Board of Education, believes that each individual district in the State of Texas should be given the opportunity to make amendments to the sexual education instruction systems.

“Texas is a very diverse state, obviously, and the 200-plus rural school districts that I represent, I wanted to give them the freedom and the latitude to include some of those items in their curriculum, in their teaching, if they choose to do so,” Rowley said.


Final Thoughts

Gupta says that although there have been changes in sex-ed made by the Board of Education, Texas still has a long way to go.

“I think there should be access [to the proper resources] all around, and access all around works,” Gupta said.

As for teachers, Crowley thinks that regardless of differences in religion, sexuality or gender, the Board of Education, the districts and the teachers in Texas should have the capacity to aid all students in understanding the meaning of the P.A.P.A. program.

“[I try] to be a teacher and stay neutral and respect everyone in their beliefs, their thoughts, their opinions,” Crowley said.