The measures required majority votes and the SBOE was considering them as a committee of the whole, which means the decisions are not final.
The textbook decision process begins with invitations for bids released by the board. The SBOE issued a proclamation in April 2020 calling for health and physical education textbooks for kindergarten through 8th grade.
To be eligible, proposed learning materials have to cover at least half of the curriculum for their topic, known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
Most of the proposed materials cover all of the relevant TEKS for health and physical education. Two of the eligible learning materials cover less than 100 percent of the TEKS: the textbook “Live Well Middle School Health” and “Lessonbee Adaptive Online Health Education.”
The only textbook approved by the SBOE was “Quaver Health,” which is published by QuaverEd and covers 100 percent of the TEKS criteria. The board placed the textbook on the list of approved materials by a vote of seven to six.
In accordance with the TEKS, “Live Well,” which is published by Human Kinetics, promotes abstinence for unmarried youths. However, it also asserts a distinction between physical sex and gender identity.
“Your gender identity is how you see yourself and what you call yourself. Your identity may be the same as your assigned sex, or it may be different,” the book reads. “You may see yourself as a woman, a man, a combination of both, or as neither.”
Proponents of broader sex education contend that students ought to have access to more information to protect against sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. On the other hand, many object to what is seen as an encroachment on parental rights and introducing explicit concepts to minors too early.
At the meeting on Tuesday, members of the public criticized “Live Well” for including content regarding gender identity and “assigned” sex, even though the SBOE rejected gender identity as a topic when crafting the health TEKS last year.
Among those who spoke against the Lessonbee and Human Kinetics materials was Mary Elizabeth Castle, who is the senior policy advisor for Texas Values, an interest group that focuses on advancing religious liberty and conservative social values.
“Just to quickly go over their problems, they encourage sexual activity at a young age, they mention consent when we agreed on refusal skills in the TEKS, and then they have the topic of gender identity and sexual orientation that was not agreed on by the board and thousands of parents who testified,” Castle said.
Board members also seemed concerned about the legal implications of passing sex education texts on a statewide basis.
Member Tom Maynard (R-Florence) cautioned the board against adopting material that “circumvents parental authority” by presenting material as health education when it is sex education.
Noting that Texas is state that requires opt-in by parents for sex education, Maynard remarked, “Therefore, in my view, based on the statute and based on our rule, that makes this particular text unsuitable for the subject[…]if we adopt it for health education, not for sex education.”
One public testifier who identified herself as the parent of a high school freshman in Lake Travis Independent School District contended that Texas’ sex education curricula are “Victorian-era.”
“I’m advocating in support of comprehensive and inclusive sex education. Evidence shows the abstinence-only approach results in more teen pregnancies, coupled with Texas’ new anti-abortion law guarantees more teen births,” the witness stated.
By a vote of five to eight, the board chose not to place “Live Well” on the list of adopted materials.
In a post on social media, Texas Values commented on the SBOE’s decision to downvote the curricula, calling them “drug-based LGBT and abortion instructional materials.”
Rep. James White (R-Hillister) also commented on some of the proposed books on the Monday prior to the SBOE hearing.
“Our education system should be focused on preparing students to think critically and ensure they have the tools to be college or career ready upon graduation,” White said.
“Parents deserve to know and have input on what is being taught to their children. Our tax dollars should not be spent teaching lewd sexual behavior or indoctrinating the next generation with socialist propaganda.”
Before the materials reached the table on Tuesday, the board had already asked Lessonbee to revise much of the materials after public comment. Originally, the materials included five slang alternatives to the word “ejaculate,” links to Planned Parenthood and Jane’s Due Process, and references to abortion as one option for handling a pregnancy.
The motion to place Lessonbee’s materials on the adopted list failed by a vote of four to eight.
Last year, relying on the recommendations of sexual health doctors that treat youths, the SBOE adopted an “abstinence-plus” curriculum that encourages abstinence before marriage and includes detailed, scientific descriptions of certain sexual facts, such as sexually transmitted diseases.
At the same meeting last year, the board rejected proposals to include gender identity and sexual orientation in the health curriculum.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will post the list of adopted instructional materials on the agency website on December 1. The adopted materials are scheduled to go into classrooms in the 2022–23 school year.
However, school districts may decide to use textbooks that aren’t on the list adopted by the SBOE.
Recently, Governor Greg Abbott called on the TEA, SBOE, and Texas State Library and Archives Commission to vet “obscene” material from public school libraries and learning materials. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath and SBOE Chairman Keven Ellis both agreed to aid the creation of new vetting processes.
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