Parents at the McKinney school district’s curriculum information night were talking condoms. And some were frustrated that district officials weren’t.
“Where would I find it?” McKinney mother Melissa Willardson asked as she searched for “condoms” in the glossary of a state-approved health textbook. “Where’s the word?”
Her response – consternation rather than headstrong support for the district’s approach – is becoming increasingly prevalent in North Texas schools traditionally known for their staunch abstinence-only approach.
Districts are rethinking what they can and should be teaching because of cuts in federal funding, a new state law that requires more parental involvement in sex-education decisions, and increasing reports about Texas’ high teenage pregnancy rate. Some districts are considering compromises along the lines of “abstinence-plus,” a curriculum that warns of the perils of early sexual activity while also discussing more comprehensive methods of prevention.
“Lots of districts” are looking into alternatives, said Renee Putter, the director of athletics and the P.E. and health coordinator for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district. Her inbox is full of e-mails from other North Texas administrators asking about curriculum options.
“When you see the alarming percentage and numbers of kids pregnant vs. the national average, you start to wonder what everyone is doing that they are so high,” she said.
That’s motivated the district, which uses an abstinence-based program that refrains from more detailed discussion of contraception, to “see what else is out there,” she said.
The Denton school district, which has professionals speak to students one day a year, is also seeking to expand its human sexuality curriculum. The Irving district has raised the idea of using Big Decisions, a curriculum that discusses birth control options. And abstinence-plus is on the agenda for the Dallas district’s next school health advisory council meeting.