Parents and students in the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) learned last Friday that sex education would not be offered this semester following a contentious school board meeting held a few days before.
In a newsletter sent to families, FWISD Superintendent Angélica Ramsey wrote:
“There is not an approved, adopted, or recommended Human Sexuality Curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year. The delay will suspend the instructional delivery of the sexual education unit for the 2022-2023 school year.”
Controversy over how sex education would be taught at FWISD arose regarding potential updates to HealthSmart, a curriculum developed by the health education organization ETR.
FWISD has been paying for ETR’s programming since 2014, according to Fort Worth Report, and it had already paid the company $2.6 million of taxpayer money for the program for this school year.
The district, however, would not provide a copy of the updated curriculum to the public.
“Parents don’t want a non-Christian curriculum,” claimed Fort Worth City Council candidate Caleb Backholm at the FWISD Board of Trustees meeting last week, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
He and about two dozen others attended the meeting and voiced their opposition to any discussion of gender identity or transgender issues in any proposed sex education programming.
Backholm further claimed that there is “no such thing as truly transgender or gender fluid,” per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The other attendees largely agreed with Backholm, with the sole exception of nurse and district parent Hailey Sinclair, who took to the podium and voiced concern over the “startling” rates of sexually-transmitted diseases among FWISD students. She expressed support for the program and was subsequently booed by the majority of attendees, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Part of the uproar at the board meeting stemmed from FWISD not sharing the curriculum it had already purchased, prompting accusations that the board of trustees was not being transparent, a common refrain heard about the Dallas Independent School District (DISD).
A recent poll conducted by The Dallas Express found that a majority of respondents with kids attending DISD wanted more transparency from the troubled district, which has been accused of allowing rampant corruption and administering an unsafe working environment.
Still, this latest fiasco at FWISD prompted a rebuke from State Board of Education representative Pat Hardy in the form of an op-ed published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“It appears that FWISD has already purchased a curriculum called HealthSmart, but it did not go through the legal review and adoption process required. By [state] law, all health and sexuality curriculum must be recommended by the advisory council and approved by the Board of Trustees. Neither step has occurred,” wrote Hardy.
She further admonished the district for allegedly not listening to parents and planning to adopt a program that could run afoul of Texas state law, which requires any sex education curriculum to align with the latest TEKS.
However, Hardy later told Fort Worth Report that Superintendent Ramsey was not to blame for the latest drama, noting that the HealthSmart program was purchased in April before Ramsey was at the helm.
“The superintendent inherited a situation that was going on before she got here,” stated Hardy.
Hardy went on to commend Ramsey for dropping the sex education program.
The Dallas Express reached out to ETR and asked if the California-based company was familiar with the matter at FWISD and if parents’ concerns were warranted.
A company spokesperson responded:
“ETR is committed to improving health outcomes and increasing opportunities for youth, families, and communities. HealthSmart is a flexible and customizable health education curriculum, comprised of over 400 skills-based lessons.
“One of the many benefits of HealthSmart is that it allows school districts the autonomy for local decision-making to ensure all lessons align to state and local policies. Schools can select their lesson plans, opt out of any specific content that does not meet their needs, and feel confident that they are providing high-quality health education to the students in their community.”