Don't look for Texas to change its abstinence-only focus on sex education in public schools despite the renewed national debate fueled by the pregnancy of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's teen daughter.
Activists on both sides of the issue say Texas' philosophy is well-established, with the state receving more federal money for abstinence-only programs than any other state. About $17 million in federal funds is matched with $3 million in state funds annually.
Texas and New Mexico have the highest teen birth rates: 62 for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, according to a July report by Child Trends, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. The national average is 41.9 births.
Several bills proposed for the 2009 Texas legislative session would expand sex education to include contraceptives. But supporter Sara Cleveland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, doesn't think they will pass.
"We don't foresee there being any changes here in Texas for quite some time," said Cleveland, of Austin.
Locally, sex education plays out in lessons on abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases that the Keller school district approved in May. They begin in seventh grade.
In Fort Worth, sixth-graders learn about abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases in health class. Arlington schools teach abstinence in a ninth-grade health class.
Many districts buy sex education material from outside companies, such as Just Say Yes, Worth the Wait, and Choose the Best. The programs teach anatomy, risk avoidance, how the effects of sex can affect accomplishments, and the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, according to representatives and company Web sites.
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