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The Role of School Health Advisory Councils in Texas

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Official Texas Education Code requires the formation and input of school health advisory councils in each school district. Their role is to recommend an age and grade-appropriate health curriculum, and we'll learn more here.

Creating School Health Advisory Councils

The Texas Education Code was officially amended in 1995 to address concerns about how human sexuality (commonly called sex ed) was being taught in public schools. This particular revision called for the development of school health advisory councils (SHACs) in each Texas school district. Since their initial formation, the roles and responsibilities of SHACs have evolved to address comprehensive health education within each school district.

Texas uses a model called the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. It aims to align education with public health and school health to address six primary health concerns: tobacco use, poor diet, limited physical activity, alcohol and drug use, the risks of sexual behavior, and violence. To help SHACs function, the state has issued guidelines and practical application tips for each council to reference and consider. Additionally, in 2005, Texas established a statewide school health advisory committee to provide leadership and guidance to the local councils.

The WSCC model guides health education priorities.
WSCC logo

Roles of SHACs in Health Education

Every school district has its own SHAC that meets at least four times each year. At minimum, each council must have five members, a majority of which are parents and not school district employees. Both the council and its recommendations should reflect the values important to the school district's community. School districts must consider SHAC recommendations before any health-related curriculum changes can occur.

Per the official Texas Education Code (see Chapter 28, section 28.004), let's take a closer look at some of the health-related details each school health advisory council is responsible for discussing and developing recommendations for:

  • The number of hours to specifically be spent on health education, including time to be spent at recess for elementary students
  • Age and grade-appropriate curriculum material for education on learning about and preventing obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health disorders
  • Age and grade-appropriate human sexuality education (sex ed)
  • Input on each school district's counseling services, employee health and wellness, and the general safety and health of the school environment
  • Details of education pertaining to nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco prevention
  • The roles of parental involvement in health-related education
  • Identifying potential collaborations that can occur between the school district and local organizations
  • Identifying any monetary impacts of proposed curriculum changes
  • General promotion of school health programs

As you can see, this is a pretty broad list of responsibilities, and each SHAC must provide a written report at least once every year. Reports must include any new recommendations or any proposed modifications to existing policies, as well as a detailed outline of the council's activities since their previous report was issued.

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