A Texas school district has dropped its plans to teach an unapproved sex education curriculum after receiving backlash from parents.
Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Angélica Ramsey informed families that the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) would restart its sexual education curriculum process.
She told parents that there “is not an approved, adopted, or recommended Human Sexuality Curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year” at the end of her weekly email on Jan. 27.
“The delay will suspend the instructional delivery process of the sexual education unit for the 2022-2023 school year,” she wrote. Ramsey took the helm of the district in September 2022, succeeding Kent Scribner.
Last spring, the Fort Worth ISD approved the $2.6 million purchase of digital-only instructional materials from HealthSmart, a California-based company. The district has been using the HealthSmart program since 2014, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The lessons and terminology in the HealthSmart curriculum do not meet Texas education requirements, longtime State Board of Education member Pat Hardy explained in a recent opinion piece.
For instance, Texas law requires the anatomy and physiology terms of male and female in its teaching requirements, whereas the Healthsmart terminology uses “body with a vagina” and “body with a penis.” The program also teaches “affirmative consent” rather than teaching refusal skills for setting and communicating boundaries.
Parents Speak Out
Over two dozen parents and community members spoke out against the curriculum during a school board meeting on Jan. 24.
Parent Kathryn Pompa, who is also a registered nurse and SHAC member, told school board members that she had reviewed the HealthSmart curriculum and concluded that “this curriculum should not be used in Fort Worth ISD.”
“In the curriculum, gender identity ideology is woven throughout all lessons, and it includes terms and graphic images that may not be appropriate for children,” she continued.
Pompa said the HealthSmart “curriculum denies scientific truth and does not rightly teach how sex is determined at conception but instead promulgates politicized language that sex is arbitrarily assigned by another human at birth.”
She went on to add that promoting “gender identity ideology” causes “confusion in the name of inclusion which is disingenuous and a tactic for indoctrination” that can lead to “permanent bodily mutation, sterility, reliance on lifelong drugs, further psychological harm, and suicide.”
Caleb Backholm, a father of three and candidate for the Fort Worth City Council, said that the curriculum is teaching religion but teaching it wrongly.
“The content in question that I’m talking about states that one’s gender might not be the same as the created sex of your body,” Backholm said, adding that he is also a seminary student.
“Christianity teaches that body and soul are inseparably linked as one being. We don’t have a body and soul; we are a body and soul.”
Backholm said the discussion of gender identity is not about physical science but that it is a religious discussion and that all teaching about this is “theological instruction.”
“If it’s not the ISD’s role to teach basic Christian doctrine in our schools, then in what sense is it the ISD’s role to attack basic Christian doctrine in our schools?” he asked.
Some parents said the district needed to be more transparent about the sex-ed curriculum and that they had to make an open-records request to get access to the program.
Hailey Sinclair was the only parent who spoke in favor of the curriculum.
Sinclair, also a nurse, told board members that she was startled by the rate of sexually transmitted infections among students and that the district’s sex education needs improvement.
State Board of Education
Longtime State Board of Education member Pat Hardy said that Forth Worth ISD needed to be more transparent with the parents and follow the process outlined by state law.
The Republican said the HealthSmart curriculum does not align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which is the standard set by the state.
Hardy said Ramsey inherited the situation with HealthSmart and applauded her decision to halt moving forward with the curriculum.
“My hat’s off to her,” Hardy told KERA News.