The Tomball ISD board of trustees voted 5-1 against adopting a new health education textbook for eighth grade students June 14, which was recommended by the School Health Advisory Council. Trustee Justin Unser abstained from the vote, and board President Kathy Handler was the sole vote to adopt the new textbook.

Director of Administrative Services Karen Graves presented the new health textbook, "Texas Health Skills for High Schools," and a companion text along with the advisory council’s concerns at the June 13 workshop meeting.

The School Health Advisory Council voted to recommend the textbook and companion guide to the board of trustees with a vote of 10-3, according to Graves.

Co-chair and parent Jennifer Kratky said at the workshop meeting she was concerned the textbook had an overall slant or bias and that her concerns included the identity chapter, multiple examples of advocacy for social justice issues, terminology that uses “pregnant person” and discussion topics within the companion text that she believes would be inappropriate for the classroom.

“Will we exert local control following Texas Education Code to ensure that local community values are reflected, or will we choose the accurate, long-held and beloved terms of mother and woman in the name of political correctness?” Kratky said.

Graves said the companion text is opt-in only with parents having to opt in for their teens to learn from the companion text. The companion text informs about human sexuality, child abuse, family violence, dating violence and sex trafficking.

During public comment during the workshop meeting, parent Tina Salem said she felt the wording in the textbook is biased.

“It reads more like a social studies book than a health book,” Salem said.

However, committee Co-chair and parent Rebecca Masciola said at the workshop meeting she believed this new health education textbook was progress, but it did not provide enough information in the subject matters of human sexuality, dating violence, drug use and abuse prevention. She also said she was concerned with the lack of information on LGBTQ individuals and proper sex education. She said Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.

“Because this is opt-in, which we know is coming from the state, the students often who need this most are [going to] miss out on this education,” Masciola said.

Graves said while the board of trustees was not required to approve this text, a new curriculum would need to be chosen before the 2022-23 school year as the current health textbook is outdated and does not teach according to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements. The recommended textbook was the only one approved by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.

Handler said at the regular meeting she was not supportive of the motion to oppose the textbook.

“I understand that parents are the primary advocates for their children, but we are a school district, and we are supposed to educate the children,” Handler said during the regular meeting.

The board of trustees discussed during the workshop meeting whether the school district should stop requiring health education as a graduation requirement as the trustees mentioned several other Texas school districts have already done so.

“We need to figure out what the long-term plan is for health before we start committing to any new textbook,” Trustee John McStravick said at the June 14 regular meeting.

Trustee Michael Pratt said during the regular meeting he acknowledges students need to learn about topics such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol and tobacco, but he said he wants to know the big picture of the district’s health education plan. He said he is not comfortable with the content of the proposed text, but he does not think TISD should stop offering health education after sixth grade.

“How do we satisfy those that want to opt in, and how do we satisfy those that want to opt out? ... Where are we going with health education?" Pratt said at the regular meeting. "If we didn’t choose the book, where else are we going to cover these super important topics?”

District officials did not state what the next steps are for determining the upcoming curriculum during the June meetings.