Issue 95, Fall 2004

Abstinence Only

Sex education in Texas is okay when abstinence is the message, according to the 15-member Texas Board of Education. Of the four textbooks under consideration, only one acknowledges condoms and none discusses other contraceptives. In one book, students are advised to get plenty of rest so they can make good decisions, to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases. The publishers claim that the teachers’ supplements will fill in the gaps. Groups on both sides of the issue have been trying to affect the outcome, which will have a major impact on textbooks used nationwide. Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks in the country and publishers find it extravagant to publish multiple versions, so, as Texas goes, there goes the nation.

Texas is one of five states with the most teenage pregnancies, according to the Center for Disease Control. Critics warn that Texas is likely to see an increase in teen pregnancy rates and in sexually-transmitted diseases. The Board of Education will vote in November.

Environmental Science

In another Texas textbook controversy, a federal district court in Dallas dismissed a lawsuit against the state for rejecting an environmental science textbook the commissioners didn’t like. The case, Chiras v. Miller, brought by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, charged that the textbook was rejected for "illegitimate, unconstitutional reasons." The commissioners had turned the book down for failing to adequately present the oil and gas industry’s position on environmental issues and for not reflecting "the conservative values of most Texans." The court held that school boards may reject textbooks if they disagree with the author’s viewpoint when such "viewpoint discrimination" is "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." The decision will be appealed.