EducationLocal NewsState SenateAustin ISD’s Controversial Sex Ed Curriculum Under Scrutiny for Copyright Violations

Months after approving a controversial sex education curriculum, new documents released by Texas Values show that Austin ISD violated copyright law in using the curriculum without approval from a Canadian abortion provider.
February 14, 2020
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Texas Values released a new document on Friday indicating that the controversial sex education curriculum that was approved by the Austin Independent School District (AISD) last October is copyrighted material taken without express permission from Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“It has been revealed through an open records request that Austin ISD cannot use Alberta Health Services’ sex-ed curriculum,” said Mary Elizabeth Castle, a policy advisor for Texas Values, during a press conference outside of Pease Elementary School in downtown Austin.

“Not only is it against hundreds of parents’ concerns; not only is it problematic with state laws,” said Castle, “but the Alberta Health Services’ curriculum is being used in Austin ISD without authorized permission.” 

A representative of AISD told The Texan in an email that the “allegations are not accurate,” but provided no further comment.

The draft curriculum presented to parents briefly before it was approved by the AISD Board of Trustees contained lessons that centered around relationships, puberty, anatomy, reproduction, and STDs, but also included lessons on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”

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Students in the third-eighth grades will be instructed on variations of the curriculum in May, though parents are supposed to be allowed to opt-out if they do not want their children to be taught all or part of the curriculum.

In the email released by Texas Values, a representative of AHS told AISD, “As AHS never entered into the copyright permission agreement with AISD, we were surprised to receive a copy of materials that include significant portions of the AHS materials. Given our earlier discussions, it is disappointing to learn that the AISD decided to use the materials without permission.”

AHS informed AISD that although they would allow the school district to use the curriculum without cost, they would still need to submit a copyright agreement so that AHS could “properly document” the permission grant according to Canadian law.

Since AHS is also an abortion provider, Texas Values has previously argued that an arrangement to use the curriculum is in violation of Senate Bill 22.

Under the new state law, “a governmental entity may not enter into a taxpayer resource transaction with an abortion provider or an affiliate of an abortion provider.”

Since the email from AHS was dated in early January, it is unclear if AISD has since complied with the request to submit a copyright agreement with the Canadian organization.

Earlier this week, state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), who authored SB 22, submitted an open records request with AISD requesting communications between AISD and AHS, but a member of Campbell’s staff told The Texan that no response had been provided yet.

If an agreement was made between the two organizations, the school district could be in violation of state law, and if not, it could be in violation of copyright law.

“Since the school district was using materials that they were not authorized to do, the vote that Austin ISD took on those unauthorized materials is also unauthorized,” said Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values. “The Austin ISD has an opportunity still to make this right. And the way to do that is scrap the current Austin ISD sex-ed curriculum and start over. As a matter of fact, it’s our belief they’re legally required to.”

According to a press release from Texas Values, a coalition of parents and concerned citizens, Stand Up for Children ATX, “will be organizing a sit out on the sex education on May 19.”

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.