AISD working on sex-ed curriculum as parents share transparency concerns

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin ISD leaders were ready to roll out an updated sex-ed curriculum when new legislation sent them back to the drawing board.

This comes at a time when some parents say they’re concerned with the content of the lesson plans. They also say the district isn’t being transparent about what is being unveiled.

Sheryl Chapman, a grandmother from Lakeway, said she has one overarching lesson for her 13-year-old grandson who attends middle school within the Austin Independent School District. 

“Learn what you need to learn to pass the tests and then forget the rest,” Chapman said. 

At the Oak Grove Baptist Church, a large group of parents and grandparents, including Chapman, have gathered to talk about something on their mind. 

“I think that sexual education should be taught at home,” Chapman said. 

AISD has been playing catch-up as it fine-tunes its sex education curriculum. Earlier this year, Senate Bill 22 set them back when they were banned from using Planned Parenthood-backed guidelines. 

“Last year we began by having lessons available the first day of school for parents to go in and start viewing,” said Kathy Ryan, AISD’s Director of Academics. “That’s not going to happen because we got delayed, so I want parents to be aware of that and not disappointed if they want to go to the school next week and look at the lessons.” 

While the lesson plans have been established for 3rd through 5th graders, educators are still working out the details for middle and high schoolers. This delay is what some groups call another example of AISD’s lack of transparency. 

“They need to make sure that parents have adequate time to look at the curriculum so that parents can voice their concerns and actually have some input on what is being taught to their kids,” said Mary Castle, a Policy Advisor for Texas Values, a group which uses a faith-based approach to examine Texas policies. 

School officials said they’re working every day to finalize plans and put them in front of parents. Ryan said they will, for the first time, put the lesson drafts online for parents to view and provide feedback before it becomes final. 

“We are trying to bring in elements that are pertinent to our kids that most of our parents want and are comfortable with,” Ryan said. 

AISD officials say their highest priority will always be to promote abstinence first. And any parent can choose to opt their child out of the sex education classes. The goal is to get the official plans approved by the board by October. 

“Abstinence-Plus” 

Before making changes to its sex-ed curriculum, AISD used “Big Decisions.” It’s an abstinence-plus program created by the Texas nonprofit Healthy Futures of Texas. 

It encourages students to wait to have sex but also provides basic knowledge about reducing risks and preventing pregnancy. 

What other districts are doing 

Other districts are still using the curriculum.  

Hays CISD leaders tell us they’ve used “Big Decisions” for at least nine years. And the nonprofit reports Dripping Springs, Hutto, Lake Travis and San Marcos school districts all use it. 

Eanes ISD also told us it has been using an abstinence-plus sex-ed curriculum called Austin LifeGuard for almost a decade. 

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