21st Century BC: out of committee Thursday?

That most useful of all 12th-century hobbies, science, is sparking another renaissance in a medieval, cloistered culture: the Texas lege. Advocates for fact-based sex-ed are optimistic about the chances of a comprehensive sex-ed bill (which you'll recall from last week's QueQue) authored by Representative Joaquin Castro and currently working its way through the Public Education Committee. Compromise language is scheduled for a vote Thursday; in the meantime you can peruse the original bill on the lege's website.

Two of that Committee's Republican members are doctors (an M.D., who has worked with children and infectious diseases, and a Ph.D. who has worked in education and the psychiatric field), making them amenable perhaps to research showing that a generation of abstinence-only demagoguery has failed to stem the tide of teen births (Texas ranks third for first-timers and first for repeat deliveries among the under-18 set). To make the bill viable, however, say Capitol insiders, it will include copious language calling for abstinence to receive more attention in the classroom than any other birth-control methods, and require classes to warn youth of the potential emotional trauma of sex consequences such as STDs and unplanned pregnancies. Opt-out language is also being strengthened, says one observer, requiring schools to give parents ample warming and access to the curriculum, and remind them of their opportunity to participate in their School Health Advisory Councils (perhaps prompting schools who don't have them to put them together).

The changes don't undermine the bill's core goal, say supporters: sex-ed based on science, and some of the changes â?? in particular the emphasis on abstinence â?? may give it a fighting chance if it makes it to the Senate. “The comprehensive sex-ed message is still there,” says a proponent of the legislation. “And that's exciting.”

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