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Did FWISD bow to the vocal minority? Courtesy ETR HealthSmart

The Fort Worth school district has adopted a sex ed curriculum that excludes Spanish-speaking families — and uses COVID relief funds inappropriately.

This is another instance of board trustees and the administration placing the concerns of non-stakeholders, particularly Christian Nationalists, above the needs of the student population, likely out of fear and from being reactive rather than responsive.

I don’t envy the trustees’ positions. I see the tremendous amount of work they do, but I cannot comprehend how a vendor lacking full Spanish translation managed to pass through the committee (other than that the law didn’t require the committee to have expertise).

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This is where the board could have monitored the process and stepped in to support our emergent bilingual students. The trustees believe they didn’t have a choice. I disagree. While the law requires abstinence-centered education, it does not prevent the board from adopting a more comprehensive model with a better teaching methodology. It just has to be abstinence-forward.

Last year, FWISD purchased a sex ed curriculum that was fully translated into several languages and was abstinence-forward. ETR HealthSmart was an eight-year adoption, meaning the district would not need to purchase another curriculum for eight years. HealthSmart could have been supplemented to cover all state requirements for less money.

While the law requires the district to adopt a curriculum that covers the state requirements (TEKS), it doesn’t specify that it needs to through a singular vendor. It specifically says “curriculum materials,” plural.

The board could have balanced fiscal concerns with equity and supplemented ETR HealthSmart to cover all the TEKS for less money. Additionally, using COVID-relief funds for a purchase that will need to happen again next year and does not serve all students as intended is inappropriate.

This decision was made reactively and in deference to our local Christian Nationalist groups. Christian Nationalists frequently assert their concern for Black and brown students, yet their actions contradict this claim. They advocate for the ban of culturally relevant books and educational resources, oppose initiatives for mental health support like social-emotional learning, and protest funding for programs designed specifically for Black and brown students such as My Brother’s Keeper, My Sister’s Keeper and Girls, Inc.

Because trustees reacted to non-stakeholder concerns, they again failed in the process and our emergent bilinguals will not be supported. As long as board members continue to disregard the needs of Black and brown students, Black and brown students will continue to struggle. Early in the vetting process, the district should have stepped in and disqualified any vendor that was not fully translated.

The committee was not qualified to see that problem in the first place. This is what happens when you reject expertise. While that rejection came from the state level, we need local leaders to do better.

 

Sabrina Ball

Tarrant County Chair, Defense of Democracy

 

This letter reflects the opinions and fact-gathering of the author(s) and only the author(s) and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a letter, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.

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