At long last, Austin ISD’s new comprehensive sex ed (Human Sexuality & Responsibility) lessons will be taught this fall!
As we know all too well, sex-ed opponents are also quite comprehensive in their misinformation about sex ed so it’s up to all of us to know the truth and make sure to address any lies as soon as we hear them.
That being said, there’s a chance that someone may have an issue with an actual lesson. For example, we’ve heard many anti-sex-ed folx claim that teaching kids the proper names for their body parts, like penis and vulva, is somehow pornographic or not age appropriate. To the contrary, there’s a wealth of research supporting why this knowledge, as well as information around consent and respect for others is so critical at every age. If you need help with some stats and research, you can find more here.
Also, if you’re confused about the new opt in requirements for sex ed in AISD, you’re not alone! Most importantly, know that you do need to OPT IN to sex ed this year. This is different than previous years. Spread the word.
When do permission forms go out? Permission forms will go out about 3 weeks before the start of instruction of the lessons. For elementary schools, that will likely be in November (there are fewer lessons and will be taught all in one week December 12-17). For secondary, it should go out in about mid-October (I don’t have the exact dates for teaching at secondary yet.)
How do permission forms go out? There will be a google form that will go out via email for all classes but there will also be paper copies available. Campuses/teachers will be in charge of this process so it will vary.
What happens if guardians don’t return the slips? Each campus principal is required by district policy to hold a parent meeting about the HSR process so look for that to happen at about the same time as letters should be going out. Again, though, the permission letter process will be run by campuses/teacher so while the district will be sending out reminders to them, how they follow up could vary campus by campus.
Dear Cishet Parents of Cishet Kids: (BTW: If you don’t know what cishet means, thanks for being curious: Cishet means you are both cisgender and heterosexual, aka: identify as the gender you were assigned at birth, and attracted to people of the opposite gender.)
If you’ve been supportive, yet silent in your support of trans kids and families, it’s officially time to upgrade your game from ally to accomplice.
Legislators are playing a political game that is putting the lives of your friends, neighbors, and classmates at risk. Greg Abbott has given free reign to Family and Protective Services in Texas to investigate all trans children and prosecute their parents as child abusers.
Teachers, doctors, and caregivers now have free reign to report any trans student (even though they are technically under no legal obligation to since Abbot’s letter is non-binding.) That student could be interviewed or put into “protective custody” while they’re being investigated. PARENTAL CONSENT IS NOT REQUIRED – Parents may not even be notified of the interview.
The only reaction to this situation is under-reaction at this point. We all need to be doing something. And don’t assume that if you don’t live in Texas that you’re safe. This is just a dress rehearsal for what’s to come if we don’t stop this now.
To start with:
1. Call your friends with trans kids. Check on them. Love on them. This is as scary as it gets as a parent. Imagine for one moment someone being able to take your kids away simply because you see them and love them for who they are.
2. Speak up. Many parents of trans kids do not feel safe putting a spotlight on their child or their family. You have the emotional distance to be a megaphone for their voices. Let them hear and see you supporting their kids. This doesn’t have to be in a formal setting. Speak up a wine nights. Speak up at the pick up line at school. The more others see you speaking up, the more comfortable they will be to do the same.
3. Show up. Parents of trans kids can’t be the only ones showing up at the capitol & school board meetings to defend their kids. Aside from not always being safe physically, or emotionally, they are busy parents, just like you. Allies need to be “relief pitchers” to show up in physical spaces to provide trans kids and their families space to heal from the ugliness and have the luxury of doing the same family things you want to do with your kids.
4. Be a safe space. Sure, rainbow tshirts and Facebook flag backgrounds can often be virtue signaling, but they can also help indicate you’re a safe space. Want to be more clear that you’re a safe space? Tell people. Let parents of trans kids know that you’re a safe carpool partner, home base if there’s an encounter at a bus stop, phone to call if they need an emergency pick up, or just someone to listen.
5. Support comprehensive, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed. Kids don’t grow up to be Greg Abbott when they’ve learned to treat classmates with dignity and respect.
6. And of course, get political! This means calling your representatives. Don’t know who represents you? Here you go! https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home This also means VOTE – and not just for presidents – The school board votes you cast may be the most important decisions you ever make for your kids.
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.
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
The first step in becoming an ally is getting Informed. We’re so glad that you’re here to gather information to help ensure that LGBTQ+ students feel safe and respected in your home, school and community.
Below are links to the information shared with each group so you can refer to your group’s materials at a later date or dive deeper into the materials that other groups reviewed. All materials and links we have shared are from GLSEN’s educational materials for educators. GLSEN offers a wide variety of training for educators to help improve school climate and personal outcomes for LGBTQ+ students.
If your school is like my son’s, you may encounter people handing out these flyers or leaving them on windshields during school drop-off and pick up.
Those of us who love and support LGBTQIA+ students may read this list as a “thank goodness they’re covering this stuff!” list, but the people who created the list are using it to try to spread fear and misinformation.
AISD elementary and middle schools are each holding information sessions for parents to learn more about the revised K-8 human sexuality & responsibility curriculum. Please attend to show your support for comprehensive sex ed that’s inclusive of the needs of LGBTQIA+ students and to make sure you have information straight from the source to help shut down these misinformation campaigns by anti-LGBTQ groups.
In the Informed Parents of Austin Facebook Group, the question comes up a lot about how parents and teachers can make sure that they are helping create a safe and inclusive learning environment for LGBTQ students.
I wish I could take credit for having a fabulous list of suggestions, but the truth is there are amazing organizations and writers covering this exact subject on a regular basis. In fact, GLSEN has an entire section of their website dedicated to the most granular level of inclusion topics for educators and you can find them all right here.
Since parents and teachers are some of the busiest people in the world, I’m going to do some cherry-picking of the easiest and most turn-key tips that you can put in place right away. I do encourage you to take a deep dive into the materials I link to though since many of us who are CIS-gender & hetero allies often aren’t aware of the level of discrimination present in even the most seemingly “everyday” parts of the education system.
Austin ISD kicked off LGBTQ Pride Month this week by raising the Pride flag during a ceremony at the district’s headquarters. The Pride flag will remain in place for the week of June 3rd and will also fly over the courtyard the week of October 7th, in honor of AISD’s district-wide Pride Week.
On February 25th, Austin ISD’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on a revised human sexuality curriculum scope and sequence which would finally guarantee students across the district access to science-based, comprehensive sex-ed that is inclusive of LGBTQ students.
The fight is far from over though as the board will be voting on the final lessons plans in May or June. Be sure to follow our Facebook Page & Facebook Group to learn how you can help support us at these important meetings.
Since that meeting, we have received many requests from parents in other school districts all around Texas, and across the country, who want to know if Informed Parents of Austin can help them get comprehensive, inclusive sex ed and LGBTQ inclusion policies in their school districts.
Yes, and no.
Yes, we can provide you with a toolkit of all the important things we’ve learned these past couple of years so you can hit the ground running and start getting parents in your community Informed and Involved today.
But, no – we can’t do the work for you. The only thing that made this change a reality was local parents showing up and doing the work. Whether writing letters to the school board or showing up at SHAC meetings, there is no short cut. As much as I would love to show up to all of your district’s board meetings, the trustees from each district only want to hear from parents and guardians in their district.
The good news: the work itself is not “hard.” Sure, you may have to show up to a meeting for a couple hours once a month, but if you can make time for a Netflix binge night, you can make time to ensure that all students in your school district have a health curriculum that helps keep them mentally and physically safe and healthy.
We’re in the process of working on our toolkit now, so sign up below if you would like to be notified as pieces are added and be sure to follow us on Facebook and join our Facebook group. (Please note that due to an increased level of questionable group requests, we are being extra diligent in our screening.)
In the meantime, go to Google and search your district’s School Board and SHAC meeting dates as well as your school’s Campus Advisory Council meeting dates and put them on your calendar. Look up their public comment policies and get comfortable speaking for two minutes in support of ALL students in your district. Don’t worry, our toolkit will have lots of talking points to help get you started.
Thanks for your interest and thanks for all you do to support ALL students in your district.
Austin ISD is currently evaluating a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum for 3rd-8th grade students. Unfortunately there are groups that are actively trying to spread misinformation to raise concerns with parents who are simply trying to get informed.
We’ve been actively involved in this ongoing discussions for over a year and are excited that finally all parents and community members are having an opportunity to weigh in with their opinions and questions about the scope and sequence of the topics that will be covered in the new curriculum.
Here is some general information about the whys and hows of the process as well as some reasons that we feel comprehensive, inclusive human sexuality and responsibility lessons are so important, even in elementary school.
The Austin ISD School Health Advisory Council voted to move forward on revising AISD’s ten-year-old, outdated human sexuality curriculum in June. Unfortunately, groups who oppose comprehensive sex-ed as well as LGBTQ inclusion efforts, are working to halt the new curriculum, redirect the focus on abstinence-only programs, as well as limit the grades that have access to vital health information.
If you support comprehensive, science-based human sexuality education and LGBTQ inclusion programs for Austin schools, we need your help now more than ever. We’ve talked a lot about SHAC & School Board meetings, but now we have a new acronym to add to your list of meetings: CAC. The list of meetings you should be adding to your calendar are:
2. Attend the monthly AISD School Board meetings. The rules and dates are subject to change so find the most current information at the AISD website.
3. Attend Your School’s CAC Meetings –Better yet, sign up to be ON the CAC. More info below.
First things first: What is a CAC? (the information in quotes is from the AISD website.)
“Campus Advisory Councils are committees of parents, students, business and community representatives, teachers, principals, and other campus staff. The formation of CACs is required by state law (Texas Education Code, §11.251). Specific functions of CACs include providing review and comment on:
Campus Educational Program
Campus Improvement Plan
Campus Staff Development Plan
Campus-Level Waiver Requests to the State
The mission of CACs is to promote excellence in education for all students through broad-based representation. CACs provide valuable input to principals, who ultimately have decision-making responsibility for their campuses.”
So, the CAC is an important group of individuals which is making incredibly important decisions about your school’s campus. We typically think of the PTA as *the* group in schools, but the CAC actually has much more power when it comes to input on curriculum, staffing and how funds are used at your school.
Based on feedback from recent SHAC meetings the CAC is going to have a couple important roles to play with the new human sexuality curriculum and LGBTQ inclusion programs.
First, each school’s CAC will be the group responsible for organizing input sessions (with the principal) and collecting feedback from parents regarding the human sexuality curriculum. We need as many supporters as possible at these meetings to ensure that our voices are heard.
Second, once feedback is collected and the school board votes on how to move forward with the human sexuality curriculum, each school’s CAC will be making important decisions regarding how the curriculum is rolled out at their schools. There is a huge risk of important aspects of the curriculum being stripped out during this phase and its important that we all stay involved through the entire process.
Check with your individual school about dates for upcoming CAC meetings. They are open to the public so anyone can attend.
If you’re interested in joining your school’s CAC, here is some additional information from the AISD website:
“Membership of Campus Advisory Councils is determined at the campus level. Click here to download a standard membership application. Completed applications should be submitted to your campus principal. Detailed information on membership criteria is contained in the CAC Bylaws.”
Unfortunately, I’m not able to send out meeting dates and reminders for each campus, but welcome you to post anything you find about your school’s upcoming CAC meetings in our Private Facebook Group or Public Facebook Page. Please help us spread the word with friends at your schools by sharing this post on your Facebook page, Twitter and anywhere possible to help get the word out.
Thank you for all you do to help keep ALL kids and parents in AISD Informed.