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LGBTQ rights advocates are pushing back against the Texas Board of Education's recent rejection of a proposed curriculum to teach middle school and high school students about gender identity and sexual orientation. The Republican-dominated board rejected a batch of proposed curriculum changes last week, striking down mandates to require students to learn about the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation as well as a proposal to teach middle schoolers about consent.
The board is expected to take a final vote on any changes in the sexual education curriculum in November.
Some proponents of the changes called the rejection "especially tragic" as research shows that most LGBTQ students don't feel safe at school because of harassment and bullying. Texas Board of Education member Ruben Cortez, a Democrat, formally proposed the new standards at a board meeting last week before sharing a heartfelt story about how his daughter struggled in accepting her own gender identity.
He said he crafted the proposal in an effort to teach "the importance of treating all people with dignity and respect regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Board Democrats and one Republican backed the measures, but the proposals ultimately failed with nine Republicans voting against them. Elementary and middle schools in the state are required to offer health education for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The state does not mandate sex education, but schools that opt to teach it are required to emphasize abstinence. A majority of board members chose to abandon them and stand with the bullies instead.
Last week, the Texas Board of Education gave preliminary approval to teach middle schoolers about birth control beyond abstinence and about "other contraceptive methods in the prevention of STDs, STIs and pregnancy," according to the board. If implemented, the move would revise the state's sex-ed policy for the first time since Board members also adopted amendments that "essentially rewrote ificant sections of drafts," according to the Texas Freedom Network.
Many of the changes reinforced standards that focus on abstinence until marriage while removing specific references to the importance of consent, despite the ongoing "Me Too" movement that seeks to address sexual coercion and harassment in American society, the group said. Some parents argued that teaching about consent might promote sexual behavior among children, but Lopez, of the Texas Freedom Network, rejected that notion, saying sex education is "important for life. This information is important for life, not just while students are in school.
Current and former public school students spoke out at public hearings over the summer, complaining that they received little, if any, sex education in school and pushing for expanded learning about contraception options, sexual consent and gender identity.
Many of them said they ultimately learned about sex through pornography or friends who knew very little themselves. But some board members argued that the state shouldn't mandate such requirements, saying it should be left up to local school health advisory councils.
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