Texas’s Approach to Sex Education And STDs

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Abstinence only education is where the school system emphasizes abstaining from all sexual activity until marriage and no other alternative is valid. Texas education laws have pushed this administration in school systems leading to a lack of knowledge about sexual identity and sex in general. A new bill is being pushed by Senator Watson in Texas to provide a more comprehensive program that’s age appropriate and medically accurate, along with education on human sexuality. Although it still includes rules on promoting abstinence, it is a step in the right direction on assuring students know other safe methods. Abstinence only education programs result in emotions of fear, shame and unpreparedness with higher rate of teen births.

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Students often feel shame if they engage in any sexual act because the school judges pre-marriage sexual activity as failure. Though sex should not be encouraged, that does not mean if someone chooses to participate in it they are “bad”. This fear based approach causes most students to stay silent about their sexuality and discourages them from asking important questions. Since this education lacks preventative measures and only mentions the high risks most students are likely to ignore it all together. If heterosexual people are scared to speak out, imagine how LGBTQ students feel. The new Senate bill includes a line about the normality and healthiness of human sexuality as adolescents develop. Though nowhere in this bill is the LGBTQ community mentioned, there is still more flexibility in allowing the schools to include homosexual sex education in the curriculum that was not there before.

Censoring valuable information and providing misleading information leaves the Texas youth in a vulnerable state. Teachers in abstinence only curriculum were restricted on talking about condoms as protections from STDS. Some programs even go on about the ineffectiveness of condoms compared to abstinence causing students to just not use them at all. The new Senate bill requires the teaching of covering sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy along with peer review supported research. This will ensure all students are being taught factual information instead of just confirmation bias material. A common occurrence also includes teachers refusing to answer students questions if they found it to taboo or inappropriate.This ties back to relating negativity with sex and making students feel ashamed and guilty. This lack of information also caused students to resort to using the internet for answers and trusting unreliable sources.

When assessing the effectiveness of abstinence programs it was found there is no link with it actually preventing pregnancy or STDs. Comprehensive sex education programs on the other hand, were shown to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy when compared. The reason for this is most likely the teaching of all the contraceptive methods such as condoms and birth control. Another factor to include is most students who participated in abstinence based programs are less likely to report having sexual intercourse or STDs because of the guilt associated with it. Also, virginity pledgers are four more times likely to initially admit to sexual activity then later deny it than nonpledgers. Again defining the guilt shaming involved in pushing abstinence on students.

All these reasons back up the new bill as being a positive change in the sex education program in Texas. It may not explicitly state a comprehensive sex education program, but it is a huge step away from a only abstinence program. It will teach students about their sexual identity instead of downplaying sex being a part of normal life. The only thing that would make this bill better is adding a line about being required to teach LGBTQ sex education as well. This does not change the fact parents will be fully informed about what the sex education entails and able to opt their child out of it if they feel necessary.        

29 April 2022

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