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Parents to review faults in abstinence-only Austin LifeGuard sex ed program this fall

Image by: Matt Mahurin
Image by: Matt Mahurin

A sex education curriculum rife with factual flaws and medical inaccuracies continues to be taught to the state’s middle and high school students in at least 13 Central Texas school districts. This fall, though, at least one district will reconsider inviting presenters from the abstinence-based sex ed program Austin LifeGuard.

The curriculum, which has come under fire in the past, puts premarital sex in a negative light, exaggerating the failure rates of contraception and discussing STDs without mentioning how to get tested, the Texas Independent previously reported.

As David Wiley, a professor of health education at Texas State University, has pointed out, the curriculum focuses on worst-case scenarios rather than practical consequences of sex. The program is administered by Austin LifeCare, a Christian faith-based nonprofit crisis pregnancy center with a record of mixing religious and secular materials, the Texas Independent previously reported.

While some districts that use the program, such as Liberty Hill ISD, admit to being aware of the complaints but have declined to reevaluate the presentation, others are more interested in taking another look at ALG.

Dee Carter, superintendent of Seguin-based Navarro ISD plans to provide the information at the fall meeting of the district’s School Health Advisory Committee, a panel of parents that oversees the sex education program. In an email, Carter said she will ask the SHAC for “an evaluation of the program relative to the concerns expressed in the article” written by the Texas Independent.

Bryon Turner, a spokesman for the Navarro SHAC, said the group will thoroughly review the presentation, and present their findings to the school board during a meeting in November or December. As in Leander and Round Rock ISD, reporting by the Texas Independent was the first Turner had heard of complaints about the curriculum.

“I certainly now have questions about the issues raised in the article, like STD rates, testing and condom failure rates,” he said. “One of our obligations is to make sure the school board is aware of which sex ed program not to use — this information will help us make that decision.”

Turner said the problem area is serving to galvanize the SHAC, motivating them to “grow and become more proactive.”

In fact, while consulting with the local SHAC is required state law, most districts in Texas skip consulting with the community groups. Some 81 percent of districts were unable to produce any formal SHAC recommendation on sex education, a 2009 Texas Freedom Network report found.

Austin ISD’s parent committee recently dropped Austin LifeGuard because of its medical inaccuracies and lack of evidence-based information. Today, three organizations work with the district to offer supplementary sex education, including the City of Austin’s Maternal and Child Health Department and Planned Parenthood.

Texas leads the nation in receiving federal abstinence-only funding. In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry and the Department of State Health Services opted out of applying for federal funds that would finance evidence-based sex education, meanwhile signing up for some $5.4 million in government funding for abstinence-only education.

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