After hearing from hundreds of witnesses at meetings in June and September, the State Board of Education (SOBE) Wednesday voted down proposed changes to draft health standards that would have taught students about their ability to consent or not to consent to sexual activity. Proposed changes would have also stressed respect for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and would have clearly addressed anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment.
It was the first review of Health curriculum for Texas students in almost two decades, and the board failed at this opportunity to provide a safe learning environment for students and teach them how to protect themselves from sexual assault. The board repeatedly rejected language offered by members like Ruben Cortez, who simply wanted to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in the curriculum about bullying.
The SBOE made this decision in spite of the fact that research shows that nearly 60% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and nearly 45% because of their gender expression. Polling in Texas this year also shows that 75% of registered voters, including 65% of Republicans, agree that “to help prevent bullying of LGBTQ youth, Texas public schools should include standards around cultivating respect for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.”
Children deserve to learn in a healthy and safe environment that is inviting and inclusive to all. While we are sadly disappointed in this outcome, we are encouraged that some of the current SBOE members will be replaced by newly-elected board members that will be sworn in at the board’s January meeting. We are hopeful that new board members, many of them supported by Texas AFT, will be more likely to put facts and science ahead of politics and ideology.