Texas Debates Sex Ed Textbooks

ByABC News

Oct. 9, 2004 — -- A battle is raging in Texas over a possible change to the school system's health textbooks. The state Board of Education is considering using new books that stress abstinence, and not much else.

Hundreds of concerned parents, teachers and students jammed a Board of Education meeting this week. They argued whether or not the books should mention condoms to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

Of the four books being considered, only one even briefly mentions the use of condoms.

All of the books say that abstinence is the best way to prevent STDs. One suggests rest, saying it's hard to make good decisions when you're tired.

Elizabeth Drury, a student at a Catholic school in Irving, Texas, says she believes the new books would be a big help in curbing sexual problems among the state's teens.

She thinks contraceptives give people a false sense of security. "It's false information," she said. "Our book would be lying to us, our teachers would be lying to us. Abstinence is the only thing that's 100 percent effective."

But teacher Jeanette Sullivan says students need options.

"Sex is a part of being a person, and we need to teach all of the facts and details that kids need to know to protect themselves," said Sullivan. "Kids who are on their second pregnancy, kids who have botched abortions, kids who get married at 13, none of these are good solutions to the problem."

What happens in Texas has implications for schools across the country. Texas buys more textbooks than any other state, with the exception of California. Because of this, text book publishers are likely to design books for Texas, and then sell them nationwide.

The battle over textbook content is nothing new. Groups have lobbied to make history books more politically correct, to drop the theory of evolution from biology books and to leave global warming out of science books.

Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network, a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan alliance of religious and community leaders, says she has noticed a trend in the Lone Star State. "Textbook censoring in Texas and other states has gotten so bad," she said, "that publishers will censor information before books are even submitted for approval."

But publishers deny they're censoring. One publisher told ABC News it's providing books that teachers and administrators want.

The Board of Education will make its decision in November. The books it chooses will then be used in Texas classrooms for the next 10 years.

Correspondent Lisa Stark filed this report for ABC News' World News Tonight.

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