“Texas is a very diverse state, obviously, and the 200-plus rural school districts that I represent, I wanted to give them the freedom and the latitude to include some of those items in their curriculum, in their teaching, if they choose to do so,” he said at Friday’s meeting.
More than 20 hours of public comment, from across the political spectrum, were heard in June and September over revisions of the state’s health education standards. Ricardo Martinez, the chief executive of Equality Texas, an L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy group, testified multiple times ahead of Friday’s vote and said that excluding language about gender identity, sexual orientation and consent hindered students’ ability to navigate the world.
“You change hearts and minds by educating people about the lived experiences of those around them,” he said in an interview. “Robbing folks, especially at this age, from receiving their vital information of how you can make other people feel included, you’re shortchanging them and their preparedness to go out into the world.”
Mary Elizabeth Castle, a policy adviser with the conservative organization Texas Values, said that the board’s rulings against language about consent and L.G.B.T.Q. identity were a clear signal to promote “sexual risk avoidance for children.”
“Leftist, political and personal ideologies have no place in science-based common-sense health education, which is why efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity topics failed,” she said.
Dan Quinn, a spokesman and research director with the Texas Freedom Network, said most Texans are in favor of comprehensive sex education, despite what he called “fear tactics” by opponents.
A public opinion poll conducted by another nonpartisan group, The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, found that about 75 percent of respondents, including 68 percent of Republicans, were in support of education that covered abstinence and contraceptives.