Newspaper Articles about Texas Health Textbooks
and Abstinence-Only Sex Education
Prior to the July 14 Public Hearing
Critics say texts get failing grade
Mandated contraception info ignored
By JANET ELLIOTT
Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
AUSTIN -- Two high school health textbooks that passed the initial state review process earlier this month now are being criticized for being so focused on abstinence that they fail to include state-mandated information on contraception.
The books, which will replace 11-year-old texts, were found by panels of educators and citizens to meet state curriculum standards, including one which requires 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."
But critics, including a member of the review panel, said that the books shouldn't have been approved. They plan to take their concerns to the State Board of Education, which will hold a public hearing July 14.
Dan Quinn, communications director for the Texas Freedom Network, said the books avoid any discussion of contraceptive methods.
For example, Holt, Rinehart and Winston's "Lifetime Health" lists 10 steps for students to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. The use of latex condoms is not one of them. Students are advised, however, to get plenty of rest.
Officials with Holt and a second publisher, Glencoe / McGraw-Hill, said they have met the standard by including information about contraceptive methods in teacher editions and in separate student supplements. The Holt book and two offerings by Glencoe were found to conform to state curriculum standards.
April Hattori, a spokeswoman for Glencoe, said the supplements "enable teachers the flexibility to bring out sensitive topics at the appropriate time."
But Quinn said he fears that many teens may never see the paperback supplements.
Bernard Kaye was among a group of educators and citizens who spent the week of June 14 reviewing health books submitted by publishers. He said he wanted to put Glencoe's "Health 1" for grades 9-10 on the non-conforming list because it did not meet the standard for discussing barrier protection and contraception.
The non-conforming list includes books that meet some, but not all of the curriculum standards. Districts are able to use state money to buy books designated non-conforming, but publishers believe such a designation puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
Kaye said the state curriculum standards do not require the books to be abstinence only. But he said the book "failed miserably" to discuss barrier protection or other forms of contraception.
"I found it to be very lacking in an important respect in a state that has a very high out-of-wedlock teenage birth rate," said Kaye, a lawyer who volunteers in his grandchildren's elementary school in Frisco.
Texas has the nation's highest teen birth rate, according to the National Vital Statistics Report, based on 2002 data.
New textbooks in Texas frequently becomes a flashpoint between conservatives and liberals . Past disputes have involved how books deal with issues such as evolution, slavery and global warming.
Samantha Smoot, president of the Texas Freedom Network, said that publishers have become so wary of developing books that might prove controversial that they have engaged in self-censorship.
"Publishers have been irresponsible in failing to meet curriculum requirements on barrier protection and other forms of contraception," Smoot said.
Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, a self-described pro-family group, praised the publishers for consulting with interested organizations before submitting their books to the education agency. She said that abstinence-only for teens is "very much in keeping with policies from the White House, as well as policies that are wanted by parents."
Critics upset by health textbooks
Books focus on abstinence, say little about contraception
By Melissa Ludwig and Asher Price
THE AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
High school students in Texas will learn all about syphilis, AIDS and teen pregnancy in textbooks over the next decade, but they may have to go elsewhere for information about condoms and other forms of contraception.
Three of the four high school health textbooks submitted to the Texas State Board of Education for adoption in November make little or no mention of condom use as a tool to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
The three instead focus almost entirely on abstinence, a focus that critics say imperils youth and ignores state health education standards. The standards say textbooks should "analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods, keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage."
"They've failed to include complete, reliable, scientifically and medically accurate information in textbooks, and we believe failing to do that will have dangerous repercussions," said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that bills itself as the alternative to the religious right, which has historically been heavily involved in the textbook adoption process. "Ignorance is not going to protect these kids."
Publishers argue their books do meet Texas' standards and are accompanied by supplements that go into detail on touchy subjects, such as condoms and birth control pills. Those add-ons are not subject to the adoption process, and therefore are exempt from state guidelines.
"Teachers prefer to have the ability to determine when and how much of that information they want to provide," said Rick Blake, a spokesman for Holt, Rinehart and Winston, which publishes one of the submitted books.
Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, said talking about condoms and abstinence sends mixed signals to students.
"If you tack on another message, you are garbling the effect," Marshall said. She also noted that the White House has taken a strong stance on teaching abstinence.
In the president's 2004 State of the Union Address, Bush called for doubling the funding for abstinence-only programs, which totaled about $144 million in 2002, the foundation said.
Last week, a state advisory panel made up of teachers and citizens gave preliminary approval of the Holt text and two Glencoe/McGraw-Hill books, saying they conformed 100 percent to state guidelines.
A textbook by Thomson Delmar Learning, which provided the most detailed information about latex condoms, was found to be lacking in several areas -- including that the book did not adequately meet the requirement to discuss the effectiveness of so-called barrier protection versus abstinence.
Publishers still have time to make changes, but if the board gives the book a "nonconforming" grade in November, that will effectively remove it from the $20 million Texas market for high school health books.
The State Board of Education will hold two public hearings on the textbooks in Austin, one July 14 and another Sept. 8.
When the board last adopted high school health textbooks in 1994, conservative groups lobbied board members, many of whom also favored abstinence-only education, to remove discussions of homosexuality and contraception, drawings of breast and testicular examinations, and toll-free numbers related to sexual problems.
This forced publishers to make hundreds of costly revisions, and Holt withdrew its book from the market after investing millions into its development. In 1995, the Legislature limited the board's power to change the content of textbooks. Now, board members cannot reject a book unless it contains factual errors or does not conform to state guidelines.
Publishers deny that political pressure forced them to leave out controversial lessons, such as those on condom use, saying the decision to relegate sensitive topics to supplemental material was based on market research.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you don't want to spend tens of millions of dollars on a product the customer doesn't not want to buy," said Stephen Driesler, director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers.
"We can develop textbooks all we want and submit them in Texas, but if the board of education is not going to adopt them, we are sort of beating ourselves in the head with a hammer," said Driesler.
The text Holt yanked from the market in 1994 and the D.C. Heath text Austin students have been using for nine years both strongly encourage abstinence, but also talk about using latex condoms to reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
The D.C. Heath text tells students condoms are 98 percent effective at preventing the transmission of HIV and explains how to use them with spermicide.
In the new texts, students will be hard pressed to even find the word "condom."
For example, in the Glencoe books, "barrier protection" is mentioned, but only as not being "100 percent effective in preventing the spread of STDs." The Holt text recommends students "get plenty of rest" to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases because, "When you're tired, it's hard to think clearly."
Sex education will always be controversial, especially in textbooks purchased with taxpayer money, said Don Merki, who authored "Glencoe Health" with his ex-wife, Mary Bronson.
Merki, who taught health and sex education in Texas for 20 years, said he thinks it's best to put controversial subject matter in supplemental material.
". . . We are trying to respect the divergence of opinion and leave the option open for the teacher, the school and the community to say 'we want more.' " he said.
Samantha Smoot, of the Texas Freedom Network, says she fears students may never see the supplements. She says omitting a discussion of condoms from the main text is ignoring Centers for Disease Control statistics that show half of Texas' high school students have had sex.
Merki says forcing the issue is neglecting the reality that students will come home from school lessons to families whose religious beliefs may contradict what is written in their textbooks.
"I think as an author, we are not parents," said Merki.
Condom information vital to students' health
The Austin American Statesman
Sunday, July 04, 2004
One thing teenagers can do to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases is to get plenty of rest.
No, this didn't come from David Letterman's nightly "Top 10" spoof of popular culture and political events. It's a serious, though not accurate, recommendation that is found in one of the health textbooks that is likely to end up in Texas classrooms.
It should be a no-brainer that high school health textbooks contain information on abstinence as well as prophylactics. But three of four health textbooks slated for Texas classrooms don't contain information about condoms. The case for including condom information in textbooks is particularly strong in Texas, which has the nation's highest teenage pregnancy rate, according to the National Vital Statistics Report. Condoms have proved effective in reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the killer HIV-AIDS virus. While condoms aren't a 100 percent sure way of preventing pregnancy or STDs, they are effective if used correctly.
State standards stipulate that information on contraceptives such as condoms be provided in textbooks. They say textbooks "should analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods, keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage."
That's a wise approach, given teenage birth and disease infection rates and parents' sentiments. But publishers of three health books slated for Texas classrooms excluded information on condoms in a politically calculated move to ensure that their books faced no opposition from social conservatives who control the State Board of Education. In abstaining from a discussion on condoms, publishers put their financial bottom lines before Texas students.
Parents and others should send publishers a message by telling their local school officials not to buy the three books that omit information on condoms, should the State Board of Education approve them later this year. Health professionals should also weigh in on the books: "Health" by Glencoe-McGraw-Hill; "Health and Wellness" by Glencoe-McGraw-Hill; and "Lifetime Health" by Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Just one book contains a brief discussion of condoms, "Essentials of Health and Wellness," by Thomson Delmar Learning. It might be better to keep old health books now in use because they contain detailed information about abstinence and condoms. The $20 million the state plans to spend on new books could be put to better use, such as programs aimed at keeping students in school.
In the long term, the Legislature must revoke the authority of the education board to choose textbooks. It's now clear that limiting its authority -- as the Legislature did in 1995 to prevent textbook wars over ideology -- wasn't enough. Social conservative board members -- all Republican -- opened loopholes in the law large enough to drive through 18-wheelers. Those loopholes are being used to circumvent state standards for the health textbooks in question.
Texas children are the losers in this war; their educations are being run down by ideology. Then we wonder why SAT scores are so low in this state.
With half of Texas high school students having sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most parents in favor of schools providing information on condoms, it would be irresponsible for school districts to select books that don't provide medically accurate information about condoms to students. If publishers lack the courage to stand up to the state board, which has bullied them in the past, then local school districts should do it by rejecting their books.
Health textbooks' focus on abstinence debated
Proposed books' focus too narrow, some say
By TERRENCE STUTZ
The Dallas Morning News
Wednesday, July 7, 2004
AUSTIN -- Unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are two of the biggest health threats facing teenagers these days, but proposed Texas high school health texts offer one solution to those problems -- abstinence.
Three of the four health textbooks that the state Board of Education is considering contain almost no information on condoms and other forms of contraception, focusing instead on abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and disease.
That omission has drawn objections from a coalition of groups, including the Texas Freedom Network and Planned Parenthood, who urge the board to reject the books on the grounds they don't meet state curriculum requirements.
Those standards specify that the books "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."
Publishers -- including Glencoe/McGraw-Hill and Holt, Rinehart and Winston -- insist their books comply with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards because contraceptive methods are discussed in teacher editions and student supplements to the texts.
But that's not enough, according to a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a group frequently battling with social conservatives over education issues.
"Texas has the nation's highest teen birth rate among girls age 15 to 17, and nearly half of all new sexually transmitted disease infections occur among people age 15 to 24," spokesman Dan Quinn said Tuesday.
"Yet the new high school health textbooks the state Board of Education is considering fail to include complete and medically accurate information on sex education. The submitted textbooks currently include information only on abstinence and none on barrier protection and other methods of contraception."
Mr. Quinn attributed the lack of sex education information to pressure from social conservatives and the desire of publishers to avoid controversy.
April Hattori, a spokeswoman for Glencoe, insisted the company has met curriculum standards because contraception is covered in supplemental materials accompanying the texts.
"We believe educators are in the best position to know when and how their students should be exposed to sensitive and important information," Ms. Hattori explained.
"Providing this information in supplemental materials enables teachers to decide when and how to introduce these subjects to students."
Holt officials could not be reached for comment.
State board members will hold the first of two public hearings on proposed textbooks for health and other subjects on July 14. A second hearing will be in September, with board action scheduled for November. The books will be used in public schools beginning in fall 2005.
Educators closely watch textbook selection in Texas because the state is the nation's second-largest school book purchaser. Texts adopted in Texas generally are marketed in dozens of other states.
Mr. Quinn said the proposed health books are clearly a "step backward" from those that have been in use in Texas since 1994 and that contain information about condoms and contraception.
"Withholding this information could have dangerous repercussions for many Texas teenagers," he argued.
As an example of the deficiencies of the proposed books, Mr. Quinn cited a passage in one that says students wanting to avoid sexually transmitted diseases should "get plenty of rest" so they can make better decisions.
A textbook review committee in June approved two health books by Glencoe -- Health and Wellness and Glencoe Health -- and one by Holt, Lifetime Health, after finding they conformed with curriculum requirements.
The panel found a fourth book -- Essentials of Health and Wellness by Thomson Delmar Learning -- "non-conforming," in part because it did not give enough emphasis to abstinence. The company can still make changes to win approval.
The book discussed use of condoms to prevent transmission of HIV and other diseases.
School districts can use state funds to purchase books that are nonconforming, but publishers believe it is easier to sell their materials if they are placed on the "conforming" list of textbooks.
Condom talk not in proposed textbooks
By R.A. Dyer
Fort Worth Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Wednesday, Jul. 07, 2004
AUSTIN - Students can read about teen pregnancy, AIDS and syphilis -- but not condoms -- in several health education textbooks that could become standard in Texas high schools for the next decade.
Set for use by ninth- and 10th-graders beginning in 2005, the textbooks emphasize abstinence and so-called barrier protection. But of four textbooks under consideration, only one references "condoms," according to a coalition of liberal advocacy groups.
Dan Quinn, spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, which opposes the religious right, urged the State Board of Education to order revisions. Otherwise Texas teens won't get the information they need to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, he said.
"Ultimately, the kids in Texas are the losers," Quinn said.
But publishers said they've closely adhered to state standards and have provided additional information about contraception in separate pamphlets.
"It's a lot easier to deal with differences from one school to another if you have the information apart from the main health textbook," said Rick Blake, a spokesman for Holt, Rinehart and Winston, which publishes one of the books.
The state board will consider health books by Holt, Rinehart and Winston -- as well as others by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill and Delmar Learning -- during public hearings next week and in September. They'll take a final vote in November.
Texas school districts cannot use state money to purchase textbooks rejected by the state board. So publishers typically work hard to please the 15-member panel while adhering to state curriculum standards.
But Quinn said textbook publishers have kowtowed to social conservatives, who favor discussion of abstinence over other forms of contraception. He said the ancillary material provided by publishers sidesteps curriculum rules that require health books to "analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods."
"Most kids are not going to see these," Quinn said of the ancillary health material. "They are not durable. They're confusing to use. Most teachers don't use even half of the ancillary items. It's a freebie they throw in."
The Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood of Texas, and the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas have teamed up to create "Protect Our Kids Campaign" calling for changes in the health textbooks.
Arrayed against those groups are various social conservative organizations, which argue that publishers have given local districts more control by separating out much of the detailed material about sex education in the separate pamphlets.
"So, now its up to parents and teachers," said Cathie Adams, director of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum.
Whatever the state board decides could have a national impact because publishers typically market their Texas books in other states.
R.A. Dyer, (512) 476-4294, email@example.com
Groups team up for sex education
by Melissa Ludwig
Wednesday, July 7, 2004
As the debate over sex education in high school health textbooks heats up, several groups have formed a coalition to support the inclusion of detailed information about condoms in students' books.
Planned Parenthood, the Women's Health and Family Planning Association, Texas Citizens for Science and about 12 other organizations have formed Protect Our Kids, a coalition that will appeal to State Board of Education members to require textbook publishers to address other methods of contraception in addition to abstinence.
Three of the four textbooks submitted to the board for adoption in November make little or no mention of condoms as a tool to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, instead focusing almost entirely on abstinence.
"Those textbooks have gone way overboard in withholding information," said Glenda Parks, director of Planned Parenthood in Austin.
State curriculum standards say textbooks should "analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods, keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage."
Publishers say information about contraception is included in supplements that come with the book. They are free for teachers but are not subject to review by the Board of Education and do not have to meet state curriculum standards.
The board will hold public hearings on the textbooks in Austin on July 14 and Sept. 8.
No Sex, Please, We're Texas
BY KIMBERLY REEVES
July 9, 2004
The four health textbooks up for adoption--two
from Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, one from Delmar Learning,
and one from (Austin-based) Holt, Rinehart and Winston--
are "Texas editions," designed to please the
ultraconservative State Board of Education.
The handful of conservatives who control the selection of the state's high school health textbooks is putting sexually active teens at risk, a coalition of advocacy groups says. The Protect Our Kids Campaign includes the Texas Freedom Network, which has taken the progressive side's lead in the recurring state textbook wars, and Planned Parenthood -- as well as groups such as the Texas Association of Ob/Gyns, the Gray Panthers, the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, and the League of Women Voters.
The group was formed specifically to protest four textbooks being put forward for adoption by the State Board of Education this fall; the first hearing on those textbooks is to be held next week. Glenda Parks, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said the "abstinence-only" textbooks are a huge step backward from what is currently being taught in classrooms. The textbooks also ignore current state curriculum, which requires teachers in the one-semester health course to teach the "pros" and "cons" of barrier contraceptives.
"If you believe these textbooks, there is only dating and abstinence on the one hand, or marriage and parenthood on the other," Parks said. "There's nothing in between." The SBOE -- an elected body long dominated by some of the most vocal conservatives in Texas state government -- pressures the textbook publishers, and the publishers respond, Parks said.
The same publishers that put out responsible textbooks in 1996 are now presenting material completely devoid of discussion of safe sex, says Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network. The Protect Our Kids Campaign instead proposes that the books contain some combination of abstinence education and a discussion of contraceptive methods.
Peggy Romberg, CEO of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association, says the abstinence-only position not only denies high school students accurate information, but also puts their health at risk in light of rising infection rates for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Parks pointed to one textbook, which provided a "brilliant case" on why HIV was such a tremendous threat to teens &endash; but then failed to include any ways to reduce the risk of infection, other than abstinence.
Romberg says the federal government has put almost a billion dollars into grants for abstinence programs since 1996, although no program has been proven to stop teens from having sex. Parks adds that research seems to indicate that abstinence programs do tend to delay teens from having sex -- but then, when they do, they fail to use contraceptive methods, leaving them more at risk for unplanned pregnancy and STDs.
The State Board of Education has scheduled hearings on the health textbooks for July 14 and Sept. 8. The final vote on textbook adoption is scheduled on Nov. 5.
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