Houston businessman Andrew White, a Democratic aspirant for governor, said that when he’s elected, he’ll step up sex education in schools.
White, speaking on Texas Public Radio, declared: “There is a large number of schools in Texas that don’t even offer sex education. Now that, to me, it’s bizarre. So we have to make these investments. If you really are serious about reducing the demand for abortion, there are some really simple ways to do that — sex education and access to contraceptives.”
We wondered whether a large number of Texas schools don’t offer sex education.
White based his statement on findings by the Austin-based Texas Freedom Network, which describes itself as the state’s watchdog for monitoring far-right issues. It estimated in 2017 that 25.1 percent of the state’s school districts in 2015-16 didn’t teach sex education in their secondary schools. By comparison, just 2 percent weren’t doing so in 2007-08, the group previously found.
Broadly, the group’s February 2017 report states that in 2015-16, about eight in 10 Texas school districts taught abstinence alone “or nothing at all when it comes to sex education.” Abstinence-plus programs, which include information on contraceptives, showed up in nearly 17 percent of districts.
The results were reached starting from a survey sent to 138 of 976 Texas school districts that had high schools that weren’t also charter school districts — plus the state’s 10 highest-enrollment districts. Districts were “representative of the diversity in geography, enrollment, racial demographics and district type (rural, urban or non-metropolitan/smaller cities) in Texas public schools,” the report says.
The report concedes that it didn’t pin down precisely what’s taught to students in each district. Rather, the group asked which textbooks, third-party programs, curricula or speakers that districts had obtained or used to teach sex education in middle and high schools. Also, the report says, “we asked specifically for materials districts had obtained from crisis pregnancy centers or other alternative-to-abortion organizations, any materials that cover sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or abortion, and copies of class schedules and district policies.”
To our inquiry, a network spokesman, Dan Quinn, listed the 35 sampled districts found not to be teaching sex education — nearly all of them rural.
Quinn also told us, “A key factor in the increase in the percentage of school districts not offering sex education appears to be the Legislature’s decision in 2009 to drop health class as a high school graduation requirement.”
The 2009 Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Perry advanced House Bill 3 into law. It directed the State Board of Education to spell out the classes that students would have to pass to fulfill different kinds of graduation plans. The law barred the board from specifying electives, such as health, as classes that had to be taken to graduate.
Lauren Callahan, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, pointed us to the agency’s latest annual school health survey showing nearly 52 percent of districts and charter schools in 2015-16 indicated they weren’t requiring all high school students to take “health education” to graduate — with 48 percent replying that they did require every student to take a class in health education.
White said a “large number” of Texas schools don’t offer sex education.
In fact, most districts offered sex education in high school in 2015-16, according to a statewide analysis, though nearly 60 percent were teaching abstinence alone. The study estimated that 25 percent of districts didn’t offer sex education.
On balance, we rate this claim Half True.
Statement: ‘There’s a large number of schools in Texas that don’t even offer sex education.’