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The Texas Republican Party voted Saturday on two new party platform planks aimed at banning the teaching of sex and sexuality in schools while simultaneously calling on Texas schools to teach the “dignity of unborn human” and that life begins at fertilization.
A proposed policy called on state lawmakers to prohibit “the teaching, exposure, and/or discussion of sexual matters (mechanics, feelings, orientation, or ‘gender identity’ issues),” as well as to remove books or related materials from schools.
“Gender has nothing to do with education,” said Cindi Castilla, president of the Texas Eagle Forum and who served on the party’s platform committee. “Education is about reading, writing, math, science, history and fine arts. Maybe a foreign language and PE. … Schools are not the social educators of our children.
Elsewhere, the GOP platform also added that Texas students should learn about the “dignity of the unborn human” and that life begins at fertilization.
“It goes back to biology, teaching sex as biology,” said Julie Pickren, who told the Texas Tribune that sex education only has a place if it meets health education standards. condition and is age appropriate. “If it has a heartbeat, it’s human, isn’t it?” »
Pickren, a Republican, is a candidate for the State Board of Education District which represents southeast Texas. Incumbent Matt Robinson is not running for re-election.
The platform board does not specify which classes should receive these lessons, except to say that high school students should read the Woman’s Right to Know booklet. Critics say this booklet, written by the state, includes scientifically unsupported claims and shames women seeking abortion care.
The platform board also states that students must attend a live ultrasound and watch a “Miracle of Life” type video. The 1982 film documents the process of human reproduction from conception to birth.
Kristen Ylana, executive director of the Texas Women’s Health Caucus, said the push to teach public school students that life begins at fertilization represents a broader push by the Texas Republican Party to broadly establish a legal basis for asserting that a fetus is a person with constitutional rights.
“They want to get to the point where we can say, ‘Well, no, that’s a person. So they need legal protections, criminal protections, constitutional protections. They have equally valid and equal rights. So you can’t do certain things,” Ylana said.
During the last regular legislative session, Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, introduced a bill that defined personality in fertilization and would provide due process for the fetus. The bill died in committee.
The State Board of Education recently completed its review of health curriculum standards, which includes requirements for teaching about fertilization in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
“My thought is to leave well enough alone. What we put in the standards is factual and balanced,” Patricia Hardy, a Republican board member from Fort Worth, told the Tribune on Saturday after the platform vote.
Many convention delegates argued that young children do not need to learn about gender and sexuality issues, including conversations and lessons about transgender people. Those delegates said on Saturday they preferred such conversations to take place at home. Under Texas law, parents currently must provide written consent for their children to attend sex education classes, which are required to emphasize abstinence.
Some women’s health advocates and public education officials have criticized the policies as harmful and discriminatory and have questioned the legality of banning the teaching of gender and sexuality in schools.
“The Texas GOP is out of step with the majority of Americans who believe in equality,” said Zeph Capo, president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. Capo said the platform’s board banning the teaching of ‘sexual matters’ appears to violate Title IX, which protects against discrimination based on sex, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity. of gender.
“Parents can try to restrict what their own children read or who they love, but they have no right to restrict others,” Capo said, “not in a truly free society.”
The newly approved Texas GOP party platform largely puts the culture wars at its heart, as the party embraced a slew of new platforms that move the party further right on Saturday.
Delegates voted Saturday on 275 deck boards, which will now have to be counted and certified in Austin. It’s rare for a board to be rejected, Texas GOP spokesman James Wesolek said. Along with the platform, delegates voted to pick 8 of 15 legislative priorities to share with Republican lawmakers ahead of the legislative session that begins in January. The 8 selected will not be known for several days.
Party platforms are often more ambitious than practical, and in Texas they have long reflected the views of the more militant wings of the parties. Elected officials are not required to adhere to their party platforms.
The additions to the state’s GOP platform related to teaching sex and sexuality to Texas students come months after Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children as child abuse. The state has also been pressured by far-right lawmakers and conservative parents to remove “obscene content” from school libraries and classrooms. Book bans have often targeted young adult literature with racial and LGBTQ+ themes.
The platform also calls on lawmakers to remove an exemption from the Texas criminal code that “allows children to access harmful, explicit, or pornographic material disguised as educational material.”
Castilla said the exemption allows schools to use educational material it considers “obscene pornography”.
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