Saturday, October 03, 2009

Texas may be changing their ways

I'm glad to see that some folks are finally willing to recognize that abstinence only education simply does not work. It looks like some schools in the lone star state are turning their back on abstinence only education. I suppose some is better than none but Texas and many if not all of the other states in the great U.S. of A. have a long way to go. This recent article posted on the Women's Health Policy Report gives me a tiny glimmer of progress toward accurate sex education.

Some Texas Schools Abandon Abstinence-Only as Teen Pregnancy Climbs, Funding Shifts

September 29, 2009

Some Texas school districts are abandoning abstinence-only curricula in favor of abstinence-based programs that also teach about contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Many of the school districts, including Austin's, made the change after it became clear that teen pregnancy rates were climbing under the abstinence-only approach, according to the American-Statesman. The change also comes as the Obama administration seeks to shift federal abstinence-only dollars to programs proven to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

More government money has been spent teaching abstinence in Texas than any other state, and it has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country, the American-Statesman reports. A Texas State University study released earlier this year found that less than 5% of Texas districts have comprehensive sex education. The school districts in Austin, Lufkin and some other areas have adopted "abstinence-plus" curricula, which teach that abstinence is the safest choice but also stress the importance of using contraception if teens become sexually active. "

Our data says that what we're doing isn't working, and our community is ready for us to do something different," Roy Knight, superintendent of the Lufkin Independent School District, said. Whitney Self, lead teacher for health and physical education in the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, which switched to abstinence-plus, said, "We mainly did it because of our pregnancy rate. We don't think abstinence-only is working."

One federal abstinence program -- known as Title V -- expired in June. Congress, with support from the Obama administration, is also considering replacing a second federal program, the Community-Based Abstinence Only Program, with one that funds initiatives "proven to delay sexual activity, increase contraceptive use (without increasing sexual activity), reduce the transmission of [STIs] or reduce teen pregnancy."

The American-Statesman reports that Texas could face challenges as it seeks to implement the types of federally funded programs envisioned by Congress. Sex education is not required in the state, but when it is offered, it must meet strict abstinence mandates under the Texas Education Code, which is "widely interpreted as barring detailed instruction about birth control and condoms," according to the American-Statesman.

Austin Tries New Approach
The revised sexual education program in the Austin school district was created by Janet Realini, a San Antonio physician and public health expert who testified before the state Board of Education in 2004 about faulty medical information in school health textbooks. Realini's program teaches students about STIs and the success rates of various forms of contraception. "The key message is, if you're sexually active, you need to use a condom because it will reduce the risk of [STIs] and reduce the chance of pregnancy," Realini said. Her program, available online and free of charge, has been adopted by school districts in Hays County, San Antonio, Lufkin and the Rio Grande Valley. The Houston school district, Texas' largest, is considering the program for next year. Houston has more children born to teens under age 15 than any city in the country (Bell, Austin American-Statesman, 9/27).

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