Fort Worth ISD is expected to restart its search for a new sex education curriculum later this spring, according to its superintendent.
The reset is needed after Superintendent Angélica Ramsey paused a committee’s plan to recommend using instructional materials from California-based HealthSmart. As a result, the district will not teach sex education this school year.
After reviewing other curriculum options, the district plans to resume teaching sex ed in the spring of the 2023-24 school year, she said.
HealthSmart is currently used as the district’s overall health curriculum, Ramsey said. The cost for the HealthSmart curriculum, including sex ed, was nearly $2.6 million.
“There are modules within the purchased materials that can be used for sexual health,” the superintendent said. “They are not being used.”
Students whose parents opt them into sex education were expected to take the course later in spring semester, according to the district.
But in January, the Fort Worth ISD school board stopped the School Health Advisory Council’s review of HealthSmart’s sex education curriculum so the district could follow the process outlined in state law. The district previously made several missteps during the recommendation process.
Several members of the School Health Advisory Council voiced concerns about sex education, including the then-proposed curriculum’s content and the district’s communication to parents about opting into these lessons.
Hailey Sinclaire, the School Health Advisory Council co-chair, also has voiced concerns to the school board about the lack of sex education this school year.
“We need to do everything possible to provide students with the information they need to take care of their bodies, make informed choices and help them have a path to a healthy adulthood,” Sinclaire, a health care worker, said to trustees on Feb. 28. “All of this starts with education.”
Ramsey explained that state law on how school health advisory councils review sex education materials as relatively new. The state’s curriculum review law was updated in 2021. The process for adopting a new sex education curriculum is:
- School board adopts a resolution convening school health advisory council.
- Advisory council must hold at least two public meetings on the materials before considering adoption.
- Advisory council presents recommendations to the school board at a public meeting.
- School board ensures recommendations meet state standards and considers taking action.
The School Health Advisory Council is filled with volunteers, a majority of whom are parents.
To set them up for success, administrators are working with members so they better understand the committee’s purpose and responsibilities as well as establish norms and a calendar — things that Ramsey views as key pieces needed before jumping into the sex education review.
“It is unfair to ask a group of volunteers to be tasked with so many responsibilities, be subject to processes in Texas Education Code, and understand both the state standards in health and sex education for multiple grade levels without training and some team building to build trust amongst the group,” Ramsey said.
Disclosure: Laurie George, a member of the Fort Worth Report’s reader advisory council, is a member of Fort Worth ISD’s School Health Advisory Council. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.