'Sex education is long overdue': Texans ask state board to rethink curriculum as it considers new proposal
Ariana Rodriguez, an activist in the field of sex education reform, said she'll never forget her experience with sexual education in high school.
"My school brought in a couple who explained to students that we're all roses. As roses, every time we have premarital sex, we lost a petal," Rodriguez said at a State Board of Education hearing Monday morning. "They ended the presentation stating that no one wants a rose without any petals and, therefore, no one wants a person who has had many partners. The students around me sobbed as they heard they were unworthy of love simply because of their sexual activity."
That experience drove Rodriguez—as well as others with similar tales, sexual education leaders and parents—to testify Monday morning before the State Board of Education to ask that the state expand its sex education curriculum to include more information about contraception, STI prevention, abortion access and sexual health for LGBTQ+ people. The hearing came as part of the state's plan to update its sex-ed curriculum for the first time in 23 years.
By the start of the meeting, more than 260 had signed up to speak. No vote was taken Monday, but the state board will hold another meeting in September for a preliminary vote on the new curriculum, with a final vote to come in November.
Adding new topics, keeping others in place
The proposed changes to the existing curriculum, released ahead of the meeting, center primarily around teaching information about sexual violence and sex trafficking. The state board is also considering a new requirement that contraception, such as condoms and birth control, be discussed in seventh and eighth grades, where previously it was only required in high school.
The rest of the curriculum still heavily focuses on abstinence until marriage. But many speakers at the hearing Monday pushed the state to adopt a more comprehensive and inclusive curriculum, attacking the lack of sex education on abortions and contraception, which some experts in attendance said contributed to the high rate of teen pregnancy in the state.
Texas ranked as the fourth highest state in the U.S. (including the District of Columbia) for teen pregnancy in 2016, according to data from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
A more inclusive curriculum
Other speakers primarily focused on the benefits of providing inclusive sex education for LGBTQ+ people, saying it could help make a safer and fairer learning environment for them and even reduce absenteeism, a common result of bullying against the queer community.
"Sex education is long overdue," in Texas, said University of Houston law student Emma Brockway. Brockway was one of many people who told the board Monday that the state's curriculum failed LGBTQ+ people, including herself—she said she learned nothing that could help her as a lesbian when she was in public school growing up.
"The importance of inclusion of the LGBTQ community in sex education cannot be overstated," said Heather Frederick, OutYouth's Texas Gender and Sexuality Alliance Coordinator.
Some conservative groups were ready ahead of the meeting to fight back against the push to create an LGBTQ+-inclusive sexual education curriculum.
"Leftist LGBT advocacy groups are calling this a 'once in-a-generation opportunity' to attack Texas' abstinence focused approach and teach highly sexualized LGBT propaganda starting in kindergarten," an email from the conservative advocacy group Texas Values said on Friday, according to the Texas Tribune.
Austin and the Cybertruck: Tesla eyes Texas, home of the pickup, for Elon Musk's latest unique creation
Cybertruck<p>The vehicle features "a nearly impenetrable exoskeleton" made of stainless steel, "vault-like storage" and an "ability to pull near infinite mass," according to the company's website.<br></p><p>Now available for preorder, production of the Cybertruck is expected to begin in late 2022. The price ranges from $39,900 to $69,900, depending on the motor type, with a self-driving add-on available for $8,000.</p><p>When Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Cybertruck on Nov. 21 at an event in Los Angeles, it prompted much feedback on its design.</p>
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Austin's COVID-19 fatality drops as treatment improves, testing expands, cases among young people rise
The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients—defined as reported deaths per confirmed cases—in Austin has dropped from 3.6% at the end of April to 1.8% on June 22, a decrease that the city attributes both to better treatments and to a rising number of cases among young people, who are more likely to recover.
Travis County COVID-19 mortality by age<div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2950699" data-url="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/2950699/embed"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div><p>Austin Public Health began offering its free service to residents regardless of symptoms on June 5, following mass protests against police brutality, and many residents have taken advantage of the opportunity.</p><p>Between June 15-21, more than 3,000 people were tested by APH, up from 2,400 the week prior.</p><p>More testing means the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is closer to the actual number—and the death toll is proportionally smaller.</p><p>Dr. DeVry Anderson, chief medical officer of St. David's South Austin Medical Center, said the falling mortality rate is also due to <a href="https://austonia.com/Coronavirus/austin-coronavirus-hospitals/higher-exposure-for-health-care-workers" target="_self"><u>better treatment options</u></a> for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized.</p><p><span></span>These treatments include:</p><ul><li>convalescent plasma therapy</li><li>the antiviral drug remdesivir</li><li>improved ventilator management</li></ul><p>Another development is that doctors are more familiar with how to treat COVID-19 patients than they were in early March.</p><p>"Having physicians and staff that have gotten, not comfortable, but now understand how to treat and care for these patients, I think it's seamless in the way we transition those [patients] to higher levels of care," Dr. Anderson said.</p>
Travis County COVID-19 mortality by race<div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2950719" data-url="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/2950719/embed"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div><p>Deaths also vary by race and ethnicity, with a larger proportion of Black and Hispanic residents who contract COVID-19 dying from it.</p>
Travis County COVID-19 mortality by ethnicity<div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2950729" data-url="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/2950729/embed"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div>
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Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a "Stay Home, Mask, and Otherwise Be Safe" order, effective from noon today until Aug. 15, requiring all individuals to wear masks and social distance. The order prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
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The surge in Austin's COVID-19 cases is overwhelming the public health system trying to fight community spread.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear masks "over the nose and mouth" in public spaces. It applies to counties with at least 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases and reverses the governor's previous policies.
Exceptions<p>The governor's order provides some exceptions to the mask mandate, including:</p><ul><li>People who are under 10 years old or have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.</li><li>While eating, exercising outside, swimming, voting or driving alone or with a member of the same household.</li></ul><div>See a full list of the exceptions <a href="https://open.texas.gov/uploads/files/organization/opentexas/EO-GA-29-use-of-face-coverings-during-COVID-19-IMAGE-07-02-2020.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>.</div>
A reversal<p>This order represents a reversal for Abbott, who previously refused local jurisdictions the right to mandate masks and limit gatherings despite repeated pleas that he do so.</p><p>Earlier this week, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe <a href="https://austonia.com/Coronavirus/austin-surge-" target="_self">sent Abbott a letter</a> asking the state to enforce mandatory masking, prohibit social gatherings of more than 10 people, roll back business occupancy and allow local officials to issue stay-home orders as needed.</p><p>"In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure and mitigate the spread of disease," he wrote.</p><p>Austin Mayor Steve Adler, along with the mayors of eight other large Texas cities, also sent Abbott a letter, <a href="https://austonia.com/Coronavirus/texas-face-masks" target="_self">on June 16</a>, asking for the authority to impose a mask requirement.</p><p>The next day, Abbott allowed local jurisdictions to require businesses to mandate masks among employees and customers.</p><p><em>This story is developing and has been updated.</em></p>
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The coronavirus pandemic has altered or canceled summer plans for many. We asked you earlier this week, "What are your travel plans this summer?" The majority voted "staying home."