When Texas lawmakers have considered legislation promoting comprehensive, evidence-based sex education, religious-right groups have shamefully screamed that such classes will promote “recreational gay sex” and “drug-based sex education.” Unfortunately, those deeply dishonest arguments have been enough — so far — to scare legislators away from making responsible changes to sex education policies in a state with one of the highest teen birthrates in the country.
But a report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund last year showed that more and more local school districts are moving away from failed abstinence-only programs. Instead, those districts are adopting evidence-based, abstinence-plus programs that teach students about contraception and disease prevention as well as the importance of abstaining from sex. A Houston Chronicle article this week looked at Houston-area school districts making the change to one such program developed by the University of Texas Prevention Research Center.
So what are we hearing from religious-right groups? More lies. Here’s a tweet from the lobbyist for Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family:
He writes about one school district moving away from abstinence-only programs: “Cy-Fair under fire 4 sex ed class teaching anal sex as ‘responsible.’” In fact, most parents who have spoken out about the change have been supportive. But he includes the date and time of a district meeting so that abstinence-only activists can register their outrage.
Except that their outrage will be based on a lie. The new program, It’s Your Game: Keep It Real, doesn’t teach students that anal sex is “responsible.” It does define practices like vaginal, oral and anal sex for students — it’s a sex education class, after all. But the program’s creators point to research that shows It’s Your Game actually succeeds in persuading more students to remain abstinent from all sexual activity — including anal sex. See here and here.
So advocates for a responsible sex education program can point to evidence supporting their approach. Activists and lobbyists for failed abstinence-only, pro-ignorance programs, on the other hand, are once again using misleading scare tactics to lie to parents.