A factually flawed sex education curriculum, taught to the state’s middle and high school students, remains popular in Central Texas public
A factually flawed sex education curriculum, taught to the state’s middle and high school students, remains popular in Central Texas public schools.
Roughly 13 school districts use Austin Life Guard, an abstinence-based sex ed program administered by Austin LifeCare, a Christian faith-based nonprofit crisis pregnancy center. Though it’s been criticized by watchdog groups and media outlets for its medical inaccuracies and confusing facts, the Texas Independent has reported that ALG continues to be presented to the state’s schoolchildren.
David Wiley, a professor of health education at Texas State University, found that problems with the curriculum include framing sexual activity before marriage in a negative light, exaggerating the failure rates of contraception and discussing STDs without mentioning how to get tested.
(Read a selection of pages from the ALG curriculum below.)
The curriculum includes especially dramatic images of sexually transmitted infections, showing rare, worst-case scenarios, Wiley told the Texas Independent in an email.
Oversight of the program rests with the districts’ School Health Advisory Committees, often comprised mostly of concerned parents.
As the Independent has reported, officials at one district, Liberty Hill ISD, admitted to being aware of the misleading information but stuck with the flawed program anyway because of ALG speakers’ good rapport with students. Another district was not aware of the presentation’s flaws, but was receptive to taking the new information into account.
Officials at two more districts reached by the Texas Independent were also unaware of the curriculum’s flaws.
Leander ISD started using ALG five years ago for its middle and high school students after vetting several different programs, said district spokeswoman Veronica Sopher.
Since then, the curriculum has been reviewed annually in a “lengthy and intensive” process, she said, that involves parents who are invited to sit in on the sessions themselves. Parents can also opt out of having their children hearing the lecture.
The LISD Board of Trustees agreed to a recommendation from its SHAC to continue using ALG at its June 23 meeting. In an audio recording of the meeting, the annual SHAC report was not debated or discussed among board members, but placed on the agenda as a consent item and voted on unanimously.
“Austin Lifeguard Character and Sexuality Education’s goal is to empower teens with accurate information and practical tools to help them make healthy decisions, build strong relationships, and fully experience the benefits of saving sex for marriage,” SHAC members wrote. “Teachers and coaches have found that having a new face in the classroom presenting this material is highly effective. Over the course of the Austin LifeGuard presentation, their educators develop relationships and trust with the teens resulting in a confidential atmosphere where sincere and personal questions can be answered. This is critical for teens because their exposure to sex is high but their actual comprehension of that exposure is quite low.”
Sopher said the district was not aware of the program’s misinformation and had received no complaints from parents and teachers over the years. Sopher said the new points of medical inaccuracy and factual holes, presented by the Texas Independent, will be made available to the district’s SHAC and factor into their next annual review.
Round Rock ISD has also used ALG as a supplemental resource since the mid-90s, along with a Texas Education Agency-approved health curriculum as its foundation, said spokeswoman JoyLynn Occhiuzzi. Like Leander ISD, Occhiuzzi says the district had yet to hear about issues with ALG until contacted by the Independent.
“In speaking with health teachers, we’ve never heard any kind of response that indicates this material is controversial. They have had nothing but positive things to say about it and are 100 percent in support of the program,” said Susan Nix, RRISD’s assistant athletic director who also helps oversees the sex ed program.
The district’s SHAC is expected to meet early this fall.
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