AUSTIN — Abstinence has long been the backbone of sex education in Texas, but this summer state officials are suggesting teachers should also be having conversations with children about contraceptives, sexual and gender identity, and how to say no.

Texas has the fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, with above-average numbers of students reporting they have sex without condoms and engage in other risky behaviors. In light of those realities, Texas education commissioner Mike Morath is recommending students begin learning about reproductive and sexual health in age-appropriate ways as early as kindergarten and understand “sexual risk avoidance” by the end of middle school.

“How health education is framed is very important,” read the recommendations for updating state’s 22-year-old standards. It adds, “merely teaching health literacy

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