HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — On Tuesday, the Hillsborough County School Board will vote on an updated sexual education curriculum.
The course is centered around reproductive health and disease prevention.
Some parents have issues with it.
“It needs to be age-appropriate. We should not be over-sexualizing our children,” said concerned parent Aly Legge.
“Children are being exposed to things that are not okay with every family because every family is different,” said concerned parent Jacalyn Muir.
School board members will vote on the curriculum for seventh, eighth and ninth graders.
According to school district documents, this will provide students with consistent and medically accurate information. It’s aimed to be a curriculum free of shame-based tactics that focuses on communication skills and decision-making skills to improve students’ abilities to reduce the risk of STDs and unintended pregnancies.
“One of the things that we believe in our clinic is that prevention really is the best medicine,” said Dr. Cameron Nereim, Assistant Professor for USF Health in the Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine Division.
Doctors who work in local youth clinics said education is necessary.
“All the times I talk to kids who they don’t know what are the different forms of protection that they could use if they were trying to protect themselves. I talk to teens who don’t know that they can get pregnant,” said Nereim.
Data show that 48.4% of Hillsborough high school students have been sexually active by their senior year. Hillsborough County’s rate of bacterial STDs between the ages of 13-19 has been consistently higher than the state average.
“It’s a pretty common issue that we’re seeing,” said Nereim.
“I think it’s really concerning. Especially if you look at our rates of syphilis in the region, rates of congenital syphilis, these are things that have been rising, and there are other places in the country where these things aren’t happening,” he added.
Parents are able to opt their children out of the course.
“I didn’t agree with an opt-out. I think we need an opt-in,” said Muir.
Concerned families told ABC Action News that they understand the need to teach reproductive health topics but disagree with the extent to which it’s taught and believe it goes beyond what should be allowed.
“If we were just sticking to reproduction, you know how do humans reproduce, let’s just say humans. Okay? That should be taught in school,” said Muir.
“Nobody is saying that sex ed should not be taught because the statistics do say that it lowers teen pregnancy and it lowers STD rates. However, this is not just your mom and dad’s sex ed,” said Legge.
“It’s a little bit more robust than I think an 11 or 12-year-old can understand or should be exposed to, and I think a lot of parents feel that way,” she added.
“There's even something in the seventh grade curriculum this year that talks about the Romeo and Juliet law, which allows minors age 16 to 17 years to engage in consensual activity with a partner age 16 to 23. And this is straight from the Hillsborough County portal,” said Muir.
The meeting begins at 4 p.m.