New Texas Law = Big Changes in Austin ISD Sex Ed

In 2020, for the first time in over 20 years, the State Board of Education of Texas (finally) revised its sex ed curriculum standards. The newly adopted TEKS for Health Education can be found here, but for the most easily digestible source of what this all means for you and your students, check out the Texas Is Ready site.

There were also big changes this Legislative session. Jen Biundo from Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy did such an amazing write up for Texas is Ready that recaps the new sex ed changes across Texas, that we’re just going to call out some highlights here but direct you to her article for the most comprehensive information you need to know.

As a refresher, on October 28, 2019 the AISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved revised comprehensive and LGBTQ+ inclusive human sexuality and responsibility lessons for third through eighth grade students, which were scheduled to be implemented in May, 2020. Due to covid and the complexity of ensuring that students at home were only viewing the lessons for their intended grade, the lessons were put on hold for the 2020-2021 school year. All lessons are available online at the AISD website.

At long last, there were high hopes that 2021-2022 would finally be the year when Austin students received comprehensive, medically accurate, LGBTQ-inclusive health lessons….and they still can….but now you need to specifically ASK for them.

Yes, thanks to some bad bits of failed SB 442 and SB 1083 being added into school finance bill HB 1525, there are some new significant hurdles to Texas students receiving comprehensive health lessons.

BIG CHANGE FOR SEX ED

Instead of the reasonable option of parents who don’t want their kids to receive sex education (based on the AISD survey with 5500+ respondents, that’s around 5% of guardians, or 1-2 students per classroom) opting out of the lessons, school districts must now get written permission from the 95%+ of parents or guardians who want their children/students to receive sex education. Yes. You must now OPT IN to sex ed.

This is a brand new law. Many parents and guardians will not know this and many students will slip through the cracks, especially students who are being sexually abused by guardians who don’t want them to have access to the information that could help them know how to reach out for help.

BIG CHANGES FOR HOW SEX ED CURRICULUM GETS APPROVED

Although our top priority right now is raising awareness about the new OPT IN requirements for the lessons that have already been approved for grades 3-8, please note that the Austin ISD SHAC (School Health Advisory Council) has been actively reviewing, (and approving) new health lessons for grades K-2 that are now in jeopardy due to new requirements included in the same HB 1525 mentioned above.

Although we strongly support district transparency with curriculum and parents & guardians having ample time to review and provide feedback on curriculum changes, the requirements of this law will likely also present additional hurdles that make it harder for comprehensive sex ed, or even any kind of sex ed, to be passed on many districts. Those who oppose sex ed will be attending these additional meetings in full force and we’ll be asking you to help us to the same to speak up in support of empowering students with the information they need to be healthy now, and throughout their lives.

For specific changes, please visit the District Adoption Process section at Texas is Ready.

CHANGES TO SHACs

As shared in the Texas is Ready write up, “School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) are volunteer groups of parents, community members, and school staff and are charged with ensuring that community values are reflected in health education. SHACs make recommendations on many areas of student health, but because one of their duties is making recommendations to the school board on sex education curriculum, they have become something of a lightening rod for groups opposed to sex education.” We have also written about SHACs here and here.

The biggest part here is that “notification of all SHAC meetings must be posted 72 hours in advance. Additionally, audio or video recording of the meeting and meeting minutes must be submitted to the school district and posted online if the district has a website.” Our AISD SHAC already posts the notifications and posts meeting minutes. Our SHAC meetings have been online during covid and have started being recorded. Although some are fine with this given the “public meeting” nature of SHAC meetings, due to past experiences with aggression from the public which even required additional security for SHAC members at one point, it is understandable that others are hesitant to be so physically visible in a recording available to the public. You can read more about the new law, and some scary parts that were fortunately left out of the final version here under the School Health Advisory Council section.

CHANGES TO SEX ED NOTIFICATION

Last but not least, HB 1525 made some changes about how sex ed lessons need to be made available to the public.

  • For sex education materials that are in the public domain, school districts must post materials online, if they have a website.
  • For curriculum materials that are copyrighted and not in the public domain, districts must allow parents to inspect the curriculum at their home campus or review the materials electronically in a secure manner that doesn’t allow them to be copied.

Austin ISD has always made sex ed materials available at the libraries of each school in the district and for the past two years they have also been available online. You can see them here.


For in depth, continued information on comprehensive sex ed that’s inclusive of LGBTQ+ students, please be sure to follow

Texas Is Ready

Texas Freedom Network

Equality Texas

and all of our wonderful community partners can be found here.

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