Fort Worth Independent School District will be deciding on an abstinence-based sex education curriculum after going two school years without one. 

The district’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) voted to recommend the abstinence-based sex education curriculum called “Choosing the Best.” 

The program’s website states that its mission is to “Educate teens on the health advantages of delayed sexual activity and empower them to make the healthiest choices, in order to reduce unplanned pregnancies and STDs, improving life outcomes for teens and their families.” The program has been running since 1993 and has had more than 5,000,000 students nationwide complete the course. 

Although the curriculum saw approval from many during the public review period held over the last four meetings prior to SHAC’s vote, after the contents were made public, advocacy group Texas Values was quick to call out the program.  

“​​You may recall a few weeks ago that Texas Values was involved in a School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) meeting at Fort Worth ISD and our conclusion was that sex education curriculum called ‘Choosing the Best’ was a positive step forward, because the other option was bad,” wrote Texas Values. “However, we have now found out that the ‘Choosing the Best’ curriculum has LGBT language, condom instruction, and Plan B abortion pill content, all details that we weren’t aware of before and now the publisher is refusing to remove this very concerning content.”

In the contents, the curriculum has a diversity statement, which states that it is “gender-neutral” as it is meant to help “all students avoid sexual risk, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.” According to Texas Values, the publisher of “Choosing the Best” told them that the reason for the language was to “satisfy the LGBT community in Fort Worth ISD.”

Despite the curriculum being labeled as abstinence-based, the instruction also details how to use a condom properly, as well as using female condoms. The curriculum does state that condom use does not always protect from sexually transmitted diseases and is not a foolproof plan to prevent pregnancies. 

Additionally, in the addendum of the teacher’s manual, there is half a page discussing emergency contraception, including Ella and Plan B, which are both abortion-inducing drugs. It also adds how and where to obtain the abortifacient drugs, noting that some must be prescribed and others are available to anyone of any age. 

Side effects that result from emergency contraceptives include abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. Furthermore, taking Plan B can also result in bleeding between periods or a heavier menstrual cycle.

Texas Values is now calling on parents and residents to take action and contact FWISD SHAC and request that they remove the controversial language from the curriculum before it is approved by the school board. 

“The school district must really choose the best option and cannot compromise. At the end of the day, Texas law does not require sex education to be taught. In fact, the school district and the SHAC have the freedom to delay until they have a sex education product that can be supported,” wrote Texas Values. “There are other options the school district could consider or they can decide to not teach sex education.”

“Contact the Fort Worth ISD SHAC members today and ask them to remove the harmful and controversial content mentioned above,” concluded the group.

However, Lori Kuykendall, who has served in the field of health education with Texas schools for 30 years and served on three work groups for the Health TEKS in 2020, told Texas Scorecard that the curriculum is actually a “win-win for the district and families of Fort Worth ISD.”

“Choosing the Best has been a national leader in abstinence-centered education for many years. Their curriculum is evidence-based, age-appropriate, and medically accurate. Most important for Texas schools, Choosing the Best aligns with all our state sex education laws found in the Texas Education Code and teaches all the student expectations in the Health TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills),” said Kuykendall. “I commend Fort Worth ISD for the care they have taken to this point in the review and SHAC recommendation process (which was not done previously). Choosing the Best has been thoroughly reviewed by district curriculum review professionals, the School Health Advisory Council members, and by many parents and the community. All have found the curriculum to be the best for FWISD students. Choosing the Best is clearly a win-win for the district and families of FWISD.”

For now, the SHAC recommendation stands, and the “Choosing the Best” curriculum will be presented to the Fort Worth ISD school board on February 27. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.