Updated: May 3
By Eleni Pacheco
Young people in Texas are struggling to make informed decisions about their health. They use what little information – or misinformation – they have in the most logical and practical way they know how in order to navigate the world. By withholding essential knowledge and life skills, we are failing them. This year, however, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has the opportunity to change that narrative.
For the first time in over two decades, the SBOE will be reviewing health education standards for Texas schools. Healthy Futures of Texas, partnered with the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and NTARUPT, is advocating for sex education revisions that will ensure medically accurate, abstinence-plus educational practices across the state.
Currently, sex education is not required to be taught in health classes in public schools. In
districts that do include sexual health, many practice abstinence-only education or outsource implementation to agencies that do not provide medically accurate information. The impact of this inequity on student learning is staggering. When considering the data, Texas teens are just as likely to have sex as their peers nationwide (39.2% to 39.5%, respectively), however, they are far less likely to wear condoms or use birth control. In fact, among the top three biggest differences between Texas and national youth health statistics are condom and birth control use.
Dr. Keven Ellis, chair of the SBOE, has voiced interest in shifting the way we teach sexual health. The commissioner found that including sex education topics like healthy relationships has the potential to build protective factors (conditions that have the power to buffer risk factors and offer a greater likelihood of positive outcomes) among our youth community. Indeed, sexual health can easily touch on 5 of the 6 major topic areas affecting health outcomes, including:
Physical health and hygiene
Mental health and wellness
Injury and violence prevention
Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
Reproductive and sexual health
The Youth Advocacy Council is currently in collaboration with lead agencies to add context and perspective to these facts and figures. The heavy-hitting topics we are focusing on to create change are healthy relationship skills, medically accurate and up-to-date contraceptive education, and non-stigmatizing STI information. Stay tuned to our social media for updates on their campaign.
Do you have a sex-ed story that would help us paint the picture of sexual health in Texas? Reach out and make your voice heard!
Eleni Pacheco, San Antonio Project Coordinator, discovered their passion for culture and sexuality while studying anthropology at UTSA. They chose to work in sex ed with the mission of creating world peace through shared power and community efficacy. Outside of education, Eleni shows love by feeding their friends (often experimenting on them with new recipes) and bonding over backyard karaoke.