A parental rights watchdog is calling on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) to redact an online curriculum that it believes encourages withholding information from parents about their child’s mental and physical health.
In an email sent to a board member about language included in textbook publisher Goodheart-Willcox’s instructional material, Moms for Liberty alleges that it undermines a parent’s ability to access health information about their child.
The Epoch Times reviewed a copy of the email and the portion of the textbook in question.
“Goodheart now does not comply with the law,” wrote Mary Lowe, chair of the Tarrant County Moms for Liberty chapter, on May 18 to Pat Hardy, a Republican who has served on the board for some 20 years.
Lowe included in her email an excerpt from Goodheart-Willcox’s Health Instructional Material for High School, which allegedly states, “People who provide mental health treatment are required by professional ethics to maintain confidentiality. This means the info you share will not be shared with anyone else, including your family members, school, or even a doctor.
“This confidentiality helps people feel comfortable sharing private information with a mental health professional. Confidentiality can only be broken if people express intent to harm themself or others, or report abuse or neglect that is currently occurring.”
Goodheart-Willcox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“It’s divisive of a family and it does not allow the family to parent their child,” Lowe told The Epoch Times.
“There are a multitude of things they could be concealing. Certainly, sexual identity grooming can be going on, but even religious and cult grooming can be happening in these conversations.
“There are numerous other accounts across Texas where school counselors have taken girls for abortion and not let the parents know.”
The board included Goodheart-Willcox’s instructional material on its list of recommended textbooks last year and Hardy said in an email that, once approved, publishers cannot change anything on adopted materials without going through the state board.
However, the board does not have the authority to require Goodheart-Willcox to update its instructional materials, according to Audrey Young, a Republican SBOE member who is vice-chair of the Committee on Instruction.
“Just because the State Board of Education recommends a book doesn’t mean it has to be the one the school districts adopt,” Young told The Epoch Times.
“It’s the responsibility of the Student Health Advisory Committees (SHAC) in each school district. That’s who should be making decisions about curriculum and instructional materials.”
SHAC members are typically parents who work in tandem with the Texas Department of State Health Services to review and oversee the health of students.
“I can, as a member of the SBOE, request that my chair ask Goodheart-Willcox to further explain what that language means in their publication,” Young added.
The stakes are high, according to Lee Spiller, executive director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Texas, who said not arming parents with information about their child can be dangerous.
“There are good reasons why parents should be involved,” he said. “We have had to deal with cases where children underwent screenings or other things at school and then there were really bad outcomes like being institutionalized.”
The controversy over Goodheart-Willcox’s instruction materials has emerged at a time when Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter stating that parents have the right to access all educational information about their children, under state and federal law, which includes medical and health information.
“Title IX does not authorize a school district to withhold medical or health information about a minor child from the child’s parent or legal guardian,” Paxton stated in a May 17 opinion.
“Parents possess a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their child, and school districts and officials must work with parents in furtherance of the child’s education.”
Paxton issued the guidance after state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) requested it on May 5.
“This ruling clearly created a problem with the Goodheart-Willcox high school textbook in that the textbook says mental health professionals can keep secrets from parents,” Lowe added.
“We really appreciate Briscoe Cain writing in for the opinion and are glad AG Paxton has corrected some of the false and illegal ideas many of the government schools have been operating under.”
The Texas Health and Safety Code, however, allows for confidentiality, according to Jonathan Covey, director of policy with Texas Values.
“One of the limitations is that a professional can determine whether releasing information would be harmful to a patient’s physical, mental, or emotional health and there were even some Texas cases that concluded that a parents’ right to mental health records is restricted in rare circumstances,” he said.
“The SBOE doesn’t have the authority to amend the Texas Health and Safety Code, but the Texas Legislature does.”
Neither Cain nor Paxton responded to requests for comment.