Education

Texas attorney general demands access to Fort Worth sex ed curriculum

The Fort Worth school district's health and sex education curriculum for sixth-grade students has come under fire.
The Fort Worth school district's health and sex education curriculum for sixth-grade students has come under fire. Star-Telegram

Fort Worth school's sex education curriculum is getting attention again — this time Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is telling the school district to give parents full access to the lessons.

“Parents have the right to inspect and review information regarding what their child is learning and participating in while attending school,” Paxton said in a press release issued this week. “By law, public school curriculum should be fully available to the public, and parents retain their constitutional right to direct their own child’s upbringing. Denying parental and public access to curriculum of any kind is a clear violation (of) the Texas Education Code.”

The release was issued with a letter entitled: "Parental and Public Access to Fort Worth Independent School District's Human Sexuality Curriculum." It is addressed to school board President Tobi Jackson and Superintendent Kent Scribner.

Clint Bond, spokesman for the district, said parents have always been welcome to review the curriculum. Typically, they could ask to see it at their schools, but since school is out, the district leadership will try to figure out how to make it available during the summer.

Bond said as of Friday, the district had not received Paxton's letter in the mail. He added: "Why was there a need for a news release and a letter when a telephone call would suffice?"

The district has already sent the teacher resources used in the sixth-grade health curriculum to the lieutenant governor's office, which requested them. In May, the district provided the Star-Telegram copies of the teacher's guide and the student workbook.

"As a reminder, our 6th grade Health course is a 70-lesson program taught in five units," Scribner told trustees in an email sent Friday. "The teaching notes requested by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office represent one of the 18 lessons taught in unit five of this course."

In May, the district's sixth-grade curriculum came under fire by critics who questioned discussion on transgender, sexual orientation and sexual identity.

"Teaching kids about transgenderism is outside the scope of TEKS and should be off-limits for public school classrooms," states a posting by Stand for Fort Worth, a local watchdog group that promotes parental rights.

Zeb Pent, spokesman for the group, issued a statement after Paxton's letter.

"We are disappointed Superintendent Scribner's administration continues to violate the trust of parents and taxpayers, but we are grateful Attorney General Ken Paxton is standing up to defend parental rights in the Fort Worth ISD. We hope more local elected officials will follow General Paxton's lead."

The Star-Telegram reported earlier this year that the term transgender is among 25 terms included in a lesson about sexuality.

The teacher's guide defines transgender as "a term that describes people who are born as one sex but feel more like the other." Also listed among the terms are bisexual, gay, sexual abstinence and straight.

Scribner told the Star-Telegram in May that the curriculum has been in place since April 2015. It is used at 22 schools. About 18,000 sixth-grade students have been taught the curriculum in the last three years. A school health advisory council that includes parents and educators review the curriculum.

Scribner said parents receive a notice about the instruction and can opt their children out of the health program. This year, 50 students opted out. The district issued a letter to concerned parents or individuals outlining how the curriculum is chosen. It also stressed that the viewpoints of parents and the community are always welcome.

The class relies on a curriculum developed by the district largely to address sexually transmitted diseases, Bond said. Materials include a teacher's resource book and a workbook for students. Students can't take the workbook home, but parents can review the workbook, Bond said.

An overview of the sixth-grade health lessons can be found on our Fort Worth ISD website under the Health and Physical Education Department webpage.

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