The good news: for the first time in more than 20 years the Texas State Board of Education is revising the health curriculum including standards for sex education. The bad news: the proposed standards leave LGBTQ youth in the dark.
Patrick Hanley, Resource Center’s Policy and Advocacy Associate has been working with “Teach the Truth” coalition partners across the state to advocate for comprehensive sex ed standards. Patrick testified before the Board in June, advocating for standards that would include medically accurate, age-appropriate information on sexual orientation and gender identity. Findings from GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey show that students attending schools with inclusive curriculums report more positive school experiences, lower absenteeism, lower victimization and higher rates of academic achievement.
Since the last time the Board considered the health curriculum and sex-ed standards, the world has fundamentally changed. According to public opinion polls the vast majority of Texans, of all political, ethnic and geographic stripes, support laws and policies to support and protect their fellow LGBTQ Texans.
Yet the disparities for LGBTQ youth remain stark. According to the 2017 GLSEN State Snapshot for Texas:
- 83% of LGBTQ students reported regularly hearing homophobic remarks.
- 73% of LGBTQ students reported regularly hearing transphobic remarks.
- 72% of LGBTQ students reported being harassed based on their sexual orientation.
- 64% of LGBTQ students reported being harassed based on their gender identity.
The Center’s largest community group, Youth First, serves nearly 500 LGBTQ youth ages 12-18. Through the experiences of the community we serve, we have seen these disparities firsthand. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) studies have also shown the toll that these climates take. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. These grim statistics must change. The first step for understanding and acceptance is knowledge.
In crafting new curriculum, the Board should be guided by the relevant, age-appropriate information on sexual orientation and gender identity found in the Time for Change report to create supportive, inclusive environments where youth can learn and thrive. Hanley stated in his testimony, “In short: we urge you to teach the truth. Texas schools serve LGBTQ students, they always have. We urge you not leave LGBTQ youth in Texas in the dark.”
Want to advocate for positive change for LGBTQ youth? We need your help! Take a moment to find who represents you on the Board here. A quick email or phone call telling them to include standards that affirm LGBTQ students will go a long way!
Do you have a sex-ed horror story? Or, are you interested in doing more or testifying at an upcoming hearing? Let Patrick know and we will keep you in the loop for future Board meetings!
Link to Patrick’s video testimony is HERE and starts at 1:23:20