Help Change Sex Ed in Texas
Join a School Health Advisory Council (SHAC)
Citizens from across the state are stepping up and joining with TFN to improve sex education in Texas schools. Joining a School Health Advisory Council is one way you can make that change at the local level. Every school district is required by Texas law to have a School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) made up of parents, concerned citizens, students, business owners and other district residents. These councils recommend to school boards and administrators what health education policies -- including policies on sex education -- the district should follow.
Download the Power Point from our webinar (held January 27, 2011):
Help change sex ed in Texas:
Adopting and Implementing Evidence-based Sex Education Programs in Texas
If you want more information, you will find tools on this page that will help you be a better advocate for sex education in your district.
Feel free to contact Garrett at the Texas Freedom Network at any time for more information.
Information you will find on this page:
- Why do we need to change sex education in Texas?
- SHAC basics
- Thinking of joining a SHAC? Here are some questions to ask.
- What are the steps to successfully bring change to my local district?
- My SHAC is not ready to recommend a more comprehensive sex education curriculum. What other steps can we take?
- What sex education program should we use in my district?
- Connect with others doing the same work.
- Previous SHAC webinars.
- Other resources
According to a recent TFNEF poll, 80% of Texans support teaching about contraception, such as condoms and other birth control, along with abstinence, in high school sex-education classes.(Click here to read the full report.) Despite this overwhelming support for comprehensive sex education, in the 2006-07 school year 96% of school districts in Texas taught abstinence-only education. Only 3.6% of districts provided students with basic information about contraception and disease prevention. According to Texas law, abstinence from sexual activity is to always be presented as the preferred choice of behavior in relationships for unmarried persons of school age. However, this does not prohibit other approaches to sexuality education. School districts can decide at any time to go beyond this requirement and include more comprehensive information.
There are mulitple places in Texas law and code that address sexuality education instruction in Texas public schools: Texas Education Code (Section 28.004 and Section 26.010), and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (Chapter 115).
The Texas Education Code requires that local school board decisions about sex education be made with the advice of a School Health Advisory Council, commonly referred to as a SHAC. A SHAC is made up of community members who are concerned about school health policies, including sex education.
While the method of determining who can serve on a SHAC varies from district to district, there are basically three ways an individual can join a SHAC: you can be appointed by the school board or administration, recruited to join by school officials or school board members, or you can volunteer your services. Half of all SHAC members must be parents, but there are no age restrictions or other qualifications set out in the law with respect to other SHAC members.
According to state law, SHAC's must:
- Meet at least four times per year;
- Contain a minimum of five members;
- Report directly to the school board at least once annually with a detailed account of SHAC activities and recommendations; and
- Appoint a parent as chair or co-chair.
- Does your local school district have a SHAC? If so how often does the SHAC meet? When is the next meeting?
- Who are the members of the SHAC? Are there parents, students, community members and school employees on the SHAC?
- Has the SHAC ever discussed or reviewed sex education?
- What sex education programs has the SHAC reviewed and/or recommended to the school board?
- Did the school board adopt the recommendation?
- What is the district's current approach to sex education (abstinence-only or comprehensive)? Does the district have a sex education policy?
- Did the school district send written notice to all students' homes before the beginning of the school year indicating whether or not the the district will provide sex education to students? (If so, request a copy of the letter.)
- Join. Join your SHAC! Ask the questions we lay out in the section above to find information about your local SHAC. Start attending meetings, and ask how you can become more involved. Every district is a little different, but many districts are eager to find community members who are willing to serve. If you begin attending meetings, joining may be easier than you think!
- Learn, Listen & Lobby. Once you are attending meetings, it is time to begin learning and listening. What issue is your SHAC currently focused on? What have they focused on in the past? Have they previously worked on sex education, or are they more involved in other health issues? Once you learn the history and listen to what the SHAC is working on, you can help shape the direction of the SHAC, whether it be toward making a recommendation on a better sex education curriculum or one of the other steps we discuss in the section below.
- Baby steps. Now that you have listened and have a sense of where your SHAC is, you are ready for the baby steps of improving sex education in your district. Determine what recommendation, or other step, would be approved by your SHAC...and do it!
- Recommend that your district utilize qualified classroom teachers to teach sexuality education and ensure they receive necessary training.
- Create a requirement that the district only utilize curricular materials from reputable sources that ensure medical accuracy and appropriate content.
- Require (or recommend) that all guest speakers and sexuality education presentations provided by outside groups and individuals be vetted by the SHAC.
- Only use materials in sexuality education classes and/or currciulum that has been approved and vetted by the SHAC.
- Request SHAC involvement in drafting the letter sent to parents by the district regarding sexuality education.
- Begin the process of re-evaluating the current sexuality education curriculum used in your district.
There are hundreds of health and sex education programs out there. Here are a few resources to help you find a good program (or programs) to recommend in your district:
There are many activists working on sex education throughout the state of Texas. Sometimes the best way to learn is to ask others who are working on the same issue. Join our Facebook group so you can have conversations with other activists. Learn what was successful in other districts, how others overcame obstacles, or share your own success story to encourage others!
If you know of other activists who would be interested in joining the group, simply send them the link to the group. If they have trouble joining, they can always contact email@example.com.
Promoting Responsible Sex Education:
Advocating Change Through School Health Advisory Councils
September 16, 2010
- Texas Freedom Network
- Just Say Don't Know - a report by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
- Advocates for Youth
- Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
- SHAC Guide - created by the Texas Department of State Health Services