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Sex education in Fort Worth ISD: What will students learn with newly-adopted curriculum?

After extensive debate and a lengthy review process of various curricula by the Fort Worth Independent School District’s Student Health Advisory Council, a new abstinence-based sex education program was approved by the school board on Tuesday night. The publisher’s website provides a glimpse of what it will entail.

Choosing the Best, which its publisher describes as “a leader in abstinence-centered, sexual risk avoidance curricula, training, and resources,” will be part of the district’s sixth-grade Moving to Wellness health course and high school Health 1 course in Fort Worth ISD. Parents have the option to opt-in to all or part of these lessons for their children, according to Texas state law.

Choosing the Best meets Title V criteria, also known as the State Sexual Risk Avoidance Education program, which uses public funding “to implement education exclusively on sexual risk avoidance that teaches youth to voluntarily refrain from sexual activity.”

“For programs that provide information on contraception, the information must be medically accurate and complete, and ensure students understand that contraception offers physical risk reduction, but not risk elimination, and the education cannot include demonstrations, simulations, or distribution of contraceptive devices,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Choosing the Best’s website, this is what each curriculum includes and how it’s described within various categories:

Sixth-grade curriculum

Deciding on your future

  • Students observe teens discussing the value of making smart choices and learn how those choices help them meet their goals through determination.

Figuring out friendships and relationships

  • Qualities of being a good friend are discussed first before progressing into what crushes, infatuations and “true love” mean. “Learning respect for the other person is part of this lively session.”

Avoiding unhealthy relationships:

  • The differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships are learned along with how “emotional needs may leave (students) vulnerable to unhealthy relationships.” Self-esteem is built through students identifying what makes them unique. Sexual violence prevention is also discussed, including how to identify it and how to ask for help when a student or someone they know has been a victim.

Identifying the risks:

  • The risks of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are discussed alongside “the emotional effects often not discussed” and the need for compassion.

Choosing the best way:

  • The risks of sexual activity are reiterated and the benefits of sexual delay are emphasized. The impact of making healthy choices on students’ health and future is discussed.

Learning how to say “no”:

  • Tools to help students resist peer pressure in regards to becoming sexually active are discussed, including boundary setting and speaking up. “Students also learn the importance of courage in sticking with their decisions.”

High school curriculum

Setting goals:

  • Three steps to setting goals and the importance of having them are learned, in addition to how sexual behavior can prevent teens from reaching goals.

Making the best decisions:

  • The thoughtful process behind good decision-making and barriers to making those decisions, such as alcohol, are learned. A connection between alcohol’s impact on decision-making and the risk of unplanned sexual activity is discussed.

Avoiding pregnancy:

  • A video shows students the consequences of teen pregnancy and an accompanying in-class activity shows its financial impact. “Students learn that only sexual delay can eliminate the possibility of a teenage pregnancy.”

Avoiding STDs:

  • “Medically accurate, up-to-date information” about common STDs, how they are transmitted and how teenagers are specifically susceptible to getting them. A video shows teens and young adults sharing the impacts of contracting an STD firsthand. “The lesson concludes with teens learning the benefits and limitations of contraception, including why ‘safe sex’ does not completely eliminate their chance of getting an STD.”

Developing the best relationships:

  • Five steps are presented for building the best relationships and “how to avoid common relational traps.” A self-esteem building exercise is done, and teens learn how quality relationships are related to “being the right person.”

Choosing the best journey:

  • “Teens learn 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.” Quality relationships consist of “compatibility, character, and commitment,” students learn.

Overcoming the pressure:

  • Pressures “in the media and from peers to be sexually active” are addressed alongside issues behind pornography and sexting. Respect and boundaries are tools that teens learn to use to overcome these pressures. Students learn how to prevent and recognize sexual violence, the aspects of consent, and what sex trafficking is and how to get help if the student or someone they know is a victim.

Being assertive:

  • Students do role plays to build “assertiveness skills” to defeat sexual pressures. The “set it, say it, show it” and “yes-no-yes” techniques are learned. The publisher website does not explain what these techniques entail.


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Supporters of the ‘HealthSmart’ curriculum and ‘Choosing The Best’ hold opposing signs next to each other at the Fort Worth ISD Administration Building on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. The school board heard two hours of public comment on the future of sex education before voting to adopt a new curriculum. Chris Torres/ctorres@star-telegram.com
Supporters of the ‘HealthSmart’ curriculum and ‘Choosing The Best’ hold opposing signs next to each other at the Fort Worth ISD Administration Building on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. The school board heard two hours of public comment on the future of sex education before voting to adopt a new curriculum. Chris Torres/ctorres@star-telegram.com