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Back to Dec. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 227 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS DECEMBER 2004

Double Victory

Texas Changes Health Texts to Support Marriage; 
Abstinence Advocates Score Win on Contraceptives
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The Texas Board of Education in November approved new health textbooks for middle and high school students after the publishers agreed to change the wording to describe marriage as the union of a man and a woman. At the same time, the board resisted pressure to add contraceptive information to the student texts.

A board member successfully argued that the proposed books ran counter to state law by using terms such as "married partners" instead of "husband and wife." Texas passed the Defense of Marriage Act last year prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions. It already prohibited gay marriage.

The publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston agreed to include a definition of marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a wife." Glencoe/McGraw-Hill changed phrases such as "when two people marry" and "partners" to "when a man and a woman marry" and "husband and wife."

The board voted 10-4 against a motion to approve the books without the changes. Board member Terri Leo led the effort to change the texts.


Contraception controversy 
The approval of the new health texts came on the heels of packed hearings in July and September focusing on whether the texts should be revised to include more information on contraceptives. The question was whether the proposed texts complied with a state standard requiring students to "analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods, including the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage."

A state review panel had previously given initial approval to four books on the ground that the overall textbook package, which includes student, teacher and supplementary components, complied with the state standard and gave teachers more control over how to teach the information in a responsible way.

Dozens of speakers at the hearings expressed views for and against changing the student texts to include more information on contraceptives. One publisher agreed to revise a chart in its teacher edition on the failure rates of various contraceptive methods, using data from the latest government study. Otherwise, no new language regarding contraception was required by the Board of Education because the supplemental materials were deemed adequate.

At least 10 state representatives presented a letter to the board in September in favor of the textbooks without new language on contraception.

Texas is the second-largest textbook market in the U.S., after California. The state Board of Education is empowered to decide whether proposed texts are factual and meet state education standards.

Texas Eagle Forum leader Cathie Adams told the Education Reporter she was elated by the outcome. "This was the culmination of a lot of work," she added, noting that state law was changed several times beginning in 1995. After positions on the Board of Education were made elective in 1997, a conservative majority was elected.


 
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