Texans Wrangle Over Contraception in Texts

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — August 11, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Dozens of parents, educators, teenagers, and health professionals have urged the Texas state school board to reject high school health textbooks that promote abstinence as the only definitive prevention for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, while relegating information on contraceptives to teachers’ manuals and supplementary materials.

At a hearing last month, more than 100 people weighed in on the debate over what middle and high school students should be taught about human sexuality. A majority of the speakers were critical of the texts. But some board members speculated that a second hearing, scheduled for Sept. 8, would bring a better balance of views because more proponents of the books would have their turn to speak.

The decision on the texts, expected this fall, could have implications for health education nationwide. Publishers tend to cater to the content demands of Texas—designing textbooks that meet the state’s academic standards—to ensure a take in the lucrative schoolbook market.

Meeting the Standard?

Three of the four textbooks being considered in Texas exclude information on contraceptives from the student editions, according to testimony from the hearing. The topic, however, is required by state academic standards in the subject and thus required in the texts.

“The complete omission of information on contraceptives makes these chapters unhealthy, in fact, dangerous, and possibly deadly for our students,” Janet Alyn, a San Antonio grandmother, told the board.

A state review panel had given initial approval to the four books—Glencoe’s Health, Meeks Heit’s Health and Wellness, Winston’s Lifetime Health, and the Delmar Learning Essentials of Health—because they technically met content requirements of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. The panel found that each of the standards for the subject is referenced at least three times in the overall textbook package, which could include student, teacher, and supplementary components.

The standard that has caused the most controversy, TEKS No. 7-I, according to state officials, requires that students “analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods, including the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage.”

But at least one member of the review panel, who voted against the books in question, said that even though the texts may cover the topic, they do not meet the mandate for discussing and analyzing the topic of contraception.

“The textbooks are woefully lacking,” charged Bernard Kaye, the review panel member. “They do not convey the learning that is required in the TEKS.”

A majority of the panel members disagreed with Mr. Kaye as did several proponents of abstinence education who spoke at the hearing.

“These textbooks are excellent,” said Diane Hensley, a founding board member of the Texas Abstinence Council. “I believe the way they’re set up is exactly what the law in Texas had in mind.”

State board member Mavis B. Knight questioned whether the texts had the right balance of information between abstinence and contraception."How can you make an informed decision if you didn’t know there were other choices out there available to you?” she said during the hearing.

Publishers say the books present the material in the best way for teachers and students.

“The Glencoe health program includes information that’s mandated in state and local guidelines on condoms pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases in the supplements for the program to give educators control as to when and how to teach this information in a responsible way,” said April Hattori, a spokeswoman for the New York City- based McGraw-Hill Cos., which owns Glencoe. “Our programs send the message that abstinence is the expected standard for teens.”


Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. f we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum From Our Research Center Privacy, Porn, and Parents in the Room: Sex Education's Pandemic Challenges
After more than a year of instructional shifts and social isolation, students need sex education that is media-savvy and relationship-wise.
7 min read
Conceptual image of students feeling isolated, but also trying to connect.
Mary Haasdyk for Education Week
Curriculum Calls to Ban Books by Black Authors Are Increasing Amid Critical Race Theory Debates
Books about race and the experiences of Black Americans are being challenged by parents who claim they make white children feel uncomfortable.
8 min read
Fans of Angie Thomas, a Jackson, Miss., resident whose book, "The Hate U Give," has been on a national young adult best-seller list for over 80 weeks, show off their copies at a reception and book signing for the author, in Jackson on Oct. 10, 2018. Thomas' novel has crossed over to a wider audience than simply young adults. The reception honored her writing as well as the coming release of the big screen adaption of the first novel.
The young adult best-seller "The Hate U Give" was one of the top 10 most challenged books of 2020.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Curriculum District That Banned Diverse Books Reverses Its Decision After Pushback
A Pennsylvania district voted unanimously to reinstate a four-page list of resources from some of today's most acclaimed creators of color.
Tina Locurto, The York Dispatch, Pa.
3 min read
Image of books on a library shelf.
Curriculum He Taught About White Privilege and Got Fired. Now He's Fighting to Get His Job Back
Matthew Hawn is an early casualty in this year's fight over how teachers can discuss with students America's struggle with racism.
13 min read
Social studies teacher Matthew Hawn is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for sharing Kyla Jenèe Lacey's, 'White Privilege', poem with his Contemporary Issues class. Hawn sits on his couch inside his home on August 17, 2021.
Matthew Hawn is accused of insubordination and repeated unprofessional conduct for lessons and materials he used to teach about racism and white privilege in his Contemporary Issues class at Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tenn.<br/>
Caitlin Penna for Education Week