By Ann Phan, Co-President of Fort Bend SURF, Student at Dulles High School
Last weekend, Jane’s Due Process teamed up with the Fort Bend Students United for Reproductive Freedom (S.U.R.F.) to use the gaming platform Minecraft to protest for comprehensive sexual education.
The Texas State Board of Education has been considering changes to the sex education curriculum all year. The students of S.U.R.F. demanded the Texas State Board of Education pass amendments that directly define the concept of consent and promote respect for all students regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Ann Phan, a high school student and co-president of Fort Bend SURF, who organized the protest, commented, “It is not enough to ask teenagers not to touch each other. We must have information that emphasizes the mutual respect and consent that must underly these decisions.”
The protest was completely designed and led by youth. In a Minecraft model of the Texas Capitol building in Austin, the students read testimonies and demanded their representatives enact changes to their sexual education curriculum. Hundreds more watched on Facebook Live. Representatives from progressive organizations across Texas spoke about a need for change.
Eleanor Grano, program manager for Jane’s Due Process, who supported the youth organizing the protest commented, “One hundred percent of Texas high school students who’ve testified at the State Board of Education have all spoken in favor of comprehensive revisions. It’s time for Representatives to listen to young people and adopt a sex education curriculum that will foster a learning environment where every student feels safe and respected in our public schools.”
The Texas State Board of Education is set to release its first major revision of the sex education curriculum in over two decades. At their most recent meeting in September, members voted to pass an amendment to this curriculum that removed the word “consent” from these standards. Members also voted against an amendment that would teach students to respect others regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Matt Robinson, who represents the students in Fort Bend, was the sole Republican on the Board to vote with Democrats in adding this language. As the Board was planning a final vote on this curriculum this week, these students want to put pressure on lawmakers to create standards that reflect the needs of Texas youth.
The group claims that they were inspired to lead this protest by the refusal of Board members to correct Representative Ken Mercer, who claimed that the word “consent” was a “gateway term” for sex trafficking and pedophilia. Meanwhile, three representatives committed to attending the virtual protest: Representatives Georgina Perez, Ruben Cortes, and Marisa Perez-Diaz. The students used the protest to highlight the unique challenges that this generation of Texas students encounter, including the prevalence of graphic online pornography. The textbook standards written in Texas spread to other Southern states and across the country, making this final vote on the curriculum an event that impacts the health of youth across the South.
Fort Bend SURF has been advocating for these changes for the past year, hosting email banks that have sent over 400 emails from Texas public high school students to State Board of Education Representatives. Of these emails, they claim, only two have garnered a response. These students were also some of the hundreds of Texans who have provided public testimony in support of stronger standards in sexual education, many of which shared stories of sexual misconduct in Texas schools in hopes that representatives would support the inclusion of consent education. At every public hearing, 100% of testimonies given by Texas public high school students have been in favor of comprehensive sexual education.
If you have concerns about your sexual and reproductive health, our volunteer advocates are available 24/7 at 866-999-5263 and by text 8am-11pm CT to support you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help accessing birth control, STI testing & treatment, or abortion in Texas.