Officials at a recent public meeting selected an abstinence-based sex education curriculum for Fort Worth ISD, which has been without one since the 2022-2023 school year.

The hotly debated subject of sex education in the district might be nearing a conclusion. A public meeting was held last week in which the Fort Worth ISD’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) landed on an abstinence-based curriculum called Choosing the Best.

SHAC will hold four more public meetings to field community input before passing on its recommendation to the school board on February 5, according to its presentation during the meeting. In turn, the school board must weigh the recommended curriculum against the state’s Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements before adopting the program.

TEKS outlines several standards for sex education that must be met, including teaching students about contraceptives, STIs, and setting sexual boundaries.

Fort Worth ISD officials came under fire in 2022 when they contracted California-based HealthSmart to provide a sex education curriculum at the price of $2.5 million. Parents and community members spoke out against the program and the vendor at school board meetings, leading Superintendent Angélica Ramsey to suspend the curriculum, as covered by The Dallas Express.

“Parents were very vocal … against that curriculum, because it wasn’t factual, it didn’t meet a lot of the TEKS, like fetal development wasn’t considered, and there is some language, terminology — male, female wasn’t used,” said Kathryn Pompa, who sits on SHAC, according to The Texan.

SHAC ultimately considered curricula from Choosing the Best, HealthSmart, Goodheart-Wilcox, J. Waite Services, Meshwork Learning, and McGraw-Hill before ranking Choosing the Best the highest.

“Choosing the Best was a better option,” said Pompa. “The graphics are more appropriate for all ages, the content was well put together, it has excellent parent support and more offerings for engagement, which is super important. I think it will be good.”

Some other stakeholders agreed, with former Fort Worth ISD parent Christi Beck calling the sex education debate “a battle of five-plus years,” according to KERA. Beck ultimately decided to homeschool her children, making her one of many district parents apparently seeking education alternatives, as attested to by Fort Worth ISD’s falling student enrollment rates.

However, there were some dissenting, or at least skeptical, voices during the meeting, such as SHAC member Laurie George, who questioned the effectiveness of Choosing the Best’s abstinence message.

“The data is 15 years old,” George said, referring to a study conducted by the vendor claiming an increase in Texas rates of abstinence among students taking its courses, per KERA. “And, it says right there, ‘The year after these children receive this curriculum, they may retain none of these pro-abstinence behaviors.’”

Fort Worth ISD has been struggling academically, clocking an 85.7% on-time graduation rate for the 2021-2022 school year. Dallas ISD, which is also seeing a decline in enrollment, managed to log a lower rate of 81.1%.