EducationLocal NewsFort Worth ISD Faces Criticism for Sex Ed Curriculum’s Problematic Review Process

Fort Worth appears to have restarted its sexual education curriculum after parents and residents pushed back on both content and the adoption process.
February 6, 2023
Parents and community members raised concerns about the process and the content used to adopt the HealthSmart curriculum for the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD).

Superintendent Angelica Ramsey announced in an email from the district on Friday, January 27 that the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) Committee will “begin reviewing different options for the Human Sexuality Curriculum once the Board of Trustees convenes them to begin the process.”

Ramsey clarified that because there is currently not an approved, adopted, or recommended Human Sexuality Curriculum for the present school year, sexual education will not be taught.

HealthSmart is a digital curriculum that aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Education Standards. The company claims that it is flexible, allowing local districts to decide which lessons align with state and local standards.

State Board of Education member Pat Hardy, who represents Fort Worth, wrote an editorial raising concerns about the process followed by the district in adopting the curriculum.

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“It is important for districts to follow state law. It protects districts and gives parents a voice. The legislature put this issue back on local school boards so that parents can have more of a voice,” Hardy said.

The requirements for a SHAC and its recommendations for sexual education curriculum are in the Education Code, which is supposed to ensure “that local community values are reflected in the district’s health education instruction.”

The process for adopting HealthSmart appears to have begun in April 2022 when the FWISD approved the purchase of the curriculum under the consent agenda item entitled “Approve Recommendation for the Adoption of New Instructional Materials Called for Under State Proclamation 2022.” The agenda item title didn’t mention sexual education, health education, or HealthSmart.

The memorandum accompanying the agenda item doesn’t mention HealthSmart either. It refers to curricula regarding “health systems” to be administered in kindergarten through 12th grade at a cost of $2.5 million.

It also does not reference any public SHAC meetings held to get public input about the curriculum.

The district held two public meetings about the curriculum last year on September 6 and 7, but according to its website, no one attended. Critics say it is because the district did not advertise the meetings well.

At the October 25, 2022 FWISD board of trustees meeting, approval of “Human Sexuality Instruction and Prevention Education as a Result of the New Health Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for 6th Grade Moving to Wellness and High School Health I” was on the agenda.

According to the meeting minutes, the item was pulled by Ramsey.

Then on December 13, the board of trustees voted on the agenda item “Approve Resolution Concerning Implementation and Enforcement of School Safety Measures.”

Despite its title, the item was related to convening the SHAC to recommend a human sexuality curriculum.

On January 10, the board voted to rescind the action due to the “erroneous title.”

On January 4, the district set up another SHAC meeting for public input about the curriculum. According to Hardy’s editorial, the district made it “extremely difficult for parents and community members to preview the curriculum as required by law.”

The Education Code requires that a “school district shall make all curriculum materials used in the district’s human sexuality instruction available for reasonable public inspection.”

At that meeting, the district said that it “welcomes every single parent to review the curriculum.”

It also claimed that the HealthSmart curriculum is aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements, however, Hardy pointed out multiple ways in which it is not.

For instance, TEKS requires that students are taught “refusal skills” for setting sexual boundaries, whereas HealthSmart teaches “affirmative consent.” TEKS requires that male and female be used when referring to anatomy and physiology where HealthSmart used “body with a penis” and “body with a vagina.”

The curriculum was not available at the SHAC meeting for review.

Parents and community members attended the January 24, 2023 FWISD board meeting to express their concerns about the process followed and the choice of HealthSmart.

Dr. Mickey Hooper, an obstetrician gynecologist from Fort Worth, offered her help in choosing the curriculum and providing medical guidance about age-appropriate instruction in various areas.

“I feel there are better curriculum choices than HealthSmart,” Hooper said.

One mother of two told the board that she had to file an open records request to see the curriculum.

Fort Worth resident and community member Missie Carra believes that if the community sees the curriculum, there will be a different outcome. She also believes that the district’s lack of transparency has raised many questions and concerns among parents and community members.

“I believe in informed consent. Parents need to know what is there,” she told The Texan, adding that it only takes “five seconds of courage” to call or contact a school board member and express concerns or ask questions.


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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.