Fort Worth ISD school board to vote on abstinence-based sex education curriculum

The Fort Worth Independent School District school board could approve a new, abstinence-based sex education curriculum on Tuesday about a year after the district suspended its previous curriculum amid backlash from parents and community members.

The Board of Education will vote at its Tuesday night meeting on whether it wants to adopt the Choosing The Best curriculum, which would be used in the sixth grade Moving to Wellness health course and the high school Health 1 course. The curriculum comes forward at the recommendation of the district’s School Health Advisory Council, or SHAC, after its members evaluated new options throughout January and discussed the topic in multiple community meetings. The council was directed by the Board of Education in August to find a new curriculum.

“Approving the SHAC recommendation for the adoption of Choosing the Best provides the opportunity for students to participate in high-quality learning aligned to the (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) while honoring the (Texas Education Code) and parents’ rights to opt-in their child for human sexuality education instruction,” the Tuesday agenda item states.

The sixth-grade curriculum encompasses six, 45-minute sessions including lessons on identifying risks of teen pregnancy and STDs, avoiding unhealthy relationships and reinforcing “the risks of sexual activity while also emphasizing the positive benefits of sexual delay,” according to the curriculum provider. For the high school curriculum, there are eight, 45-minute lessons that focus on avoiding pregnancy and STDs through abstinence, overcoming pressures “in the media and from peers to be sexually active, including a discussion on the problem of pornography and sexting,” and learning about “the negative emotional effects of casual sex and how sexual delay provides freedom: freedom from physical and emotional risks and the freedom to pursue dreams and personal goals.”

If passed, the district would purchase the curriculum for about $72,200, replacing its previous curriculum known as HealthSmart, which sparked concerns from parents for its inclusion of topics about sexual orientation and gender identity.

A rally of those disputing the proposed curriculum is scheduled at 5 p.m. Tuesday before the 5:30 p.m. meeting at ZBonz Dog Park, across the street from the Fort Worth ISD administration building, according to Emma-Eliz Barberena, an organizer with the Fort Worth chapter of Bans Off Our Bodies and a junior at Arlington Heights High School. Attendees are expected to include students and other organizations such as Students Engaged in Advancing Texas.

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Barberena said she’s noticed that Fort Worth ISD teachers have appeared uncomfortable while teaching sex education in the past, tiptoeing around certain topics to avoid receiving backlash from parents or administrators, she said. As a result, relevant conversations are not addressed properly, she added.

“Even though many of us have the resources to inform ourselves about our bodily functions at home, or have parents that will teach us at home, there’s so many kids that do not and that are forced to intake their parents’ ideals,” Barberena said.