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Education board signs off on one health textbook, rejects others that include lessons on sexuality

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Earlier this week, the Texas State Board of Education considered instructional materials that included topics like gender identity and sexual orientation. They were rejected by the board in a preliminary vote, and did not get called up for a final vote Friday.

On a 10-3 vote Friday, the Texas State Board of Education signed off on a new health textbook that includes sex education, which it will recommend to school districts for middle school students.

Will Hickman, a Republican from Houston who’s on the board, advocated for the instructional material by publisher Goodheart-Wilcox.

He said they not only met 100% of the statewide educational standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, but also removed what he called “objectional material.”

“But, let me make clear, our action today does not put this book in a single classroom," Hickman said. "Each ISD [Independent School District] and each SHAC [School Health Advisory Council] will review this material themselves and decide what’s the best material for that community. My concern is … if we don’t adopt anything, it will be a wild West.”

Hickman said he also appreciates that parents are still given a choice. Under a new state law that passed this year, school districts who want to teach sex education must first get parental consent.

“Sex ed is now opt in,” Hickman stated, during Friday’s meeting. “This publisher [Goodheart-Wilcox] is able to segregate these materials, and only provide the sex ed materials to the kids who have opted in.”

Meanwhile, on a tied vote of 6-6 Friday, the board rejected QuaverEd, even though it met 100% of the required state standard for elementary students.

Two other publishers, Lessonbee and Human Kinetics, failed to get preliminary board approval earlier this week.

Their books included references to abortion and LGBTQ issues, like gender identity and sexual orientation. That caused dozens of parents and some groups to testify against the proposed instructional materials during a Tuesday state board of education meeting.

“It is really a shame to deny these materials to those districts and those parents who want that information based on a very small, but incredibly vocal and organized group,” said Rebecca Bell-Metereau, a San Marcos Democrat who’s on the board.

During Friday’s meeting, Democratic board members, like Bell-Metereau, expressed their disappointment over those who opposed the proposed instructional materials.

“The idea that mentioning anything to do with sex will harm our students is simply not validated by scientific research,” she said. “The more students know about their bodies, the more likely they are to make wise decisions about their bodies.”

Last year, the state board of education approved teaching middle school students about other forms of birth control, aside from abstinence. It was the first time the statewide health curriculum standards had been updated in more than 20 years.

At the time, the Republican-dominated 15-member board also rejected including information about gender identity and sexual orientation.