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When the 15 members of the State Board of Education meet at its regular quarterly meeting this week, the elected group is expected to talk about how climate change and sexuality are taught to middle school students. It’s part of a regular process that takes place every eight years.
But there’s another topic that’s not on the agenda that at least one board member says needs to be discussed, and that’s what the board has to say about what’s going on on the shelves of a school library.
Last Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott called on both the Texas Education Agency and the state board of education to remove books with “overtly sexual” content from school libraries and to develop standards for what comes in. in libraries. The governor intervened after State Representative Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, launched an investigation in some school districts into the types of books students can access.
Since Krause published a list of around 850 books – most of which deal with race and sexuality – and started asking districts if they have them on the shelves, the question of who controls the non- textbooks available in schools has not been resolved. The Texas Association of School Boards says the decision is up to local schools.
But at least one member of the State Board of Education, Pat Hardy, who represents Tarrant and Parker counties as well as part of Dallas County, says the board needs more clarity on the role of the advice in these decisions.
“Don’t just throw the hot potato in our way and say ‘You all take this responsibility,’ she said.
Last week, Keven Ellis, chairman of the board of education, said families in Texas public schools “should be assured that their children are not at risk of being exposed to pornographic and obscene material when they are at school “.
But the exact form this insurance takes is unclear.
The state council usually works on the standards that textbook publishers must meet. But as they tackle science and health standards this week, similar topics that concern parents – and lately lawmakers – will surface, mostly around sexuality.
Last year, the board approved the expansion of the state’s seventh and eighth grade health and sexuality education curriculum to include forms of birth control beyond abstinence and sexuality. education on sexually transmitted infections. However, the Republican majority council has once again not been more inclusive of the LGBTQ community, rejecting pressure to include lessons on sexual orientation, gender identity and consent.
At least one of the 13 textbooks that the National Board of Education will review contains additional material that touches on these topics, although teachers are not required to teach them. Once approved, they would then be available for adoption by school districts.
Dan Quinn, spokesman for the left-wing Texas Freedom Network, said allowing school districts for adoption of the book would give teachers a tool to talk about these topics.
Quinn’s group believes the board needs to revise its health program to include these topics. The bureau will meet from Tuesday to Friday.
“This vote is really a test of whether the Texas State Board of Education has moved beyond culture wars and political circuses,” Quinn said.
Hardy said she would have a hard time voting for a manual that contained items that did not meet state approved standards. Hardy said parents have the ability to teach their children things that are not within state approved standards.
“The standards we chose reflect what we heard from parents as to what they wanted,” said Hardy.
The state board of trustees is also set to vote on new science standards for middle schoolers, with most attention being drawn to what eighth graders are learning about climate change, Quinn said.
The last time the state council passed new scientific standards in 2009, the then president said climate change was a “bunch.” More than a decade later, the current board made changes to its high school curriculum last year with climate change being addressed in some high school courses and are now set to do the same in colleges.
Under the proposed science guidelines for grade eight, students are to learn how “natural events and human activity can impact the global climate.” For Quinn and the scientists, this is where the problem lies. Human activity and natural events have, have and will continue to impact the global climate. There is no “power,” he said.
Hardy said she liked the way climate change standards are currently worded because she wants children to learn both the good and the bad about fossil fuels, like how they raised and supported the Texas economy.
On November 4, climatologists across the state sent a letter to the board urging it to revise the proposed program to reflect the fact that human activity such as the release of greenhouse gases has affected the weather.
“Teaching about climate change doesn’t just prepare students for success in college-level work if they choose to continue their education after high school,” wrote Andrew Dessler, atmospheric science professor and Reta A. Haynes in Geosciences at Texas A&M. University. “It also helps students become informed voters who understand the issues and can make responsible decisions as we work together to find real solutions to the problem. “
Disclosure: The Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Freedom Network have financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.