Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools voted 5-2 on Tuesday to resume teaching sex education curriculum to students despite pushback from parents, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
State law requires annual approval of sex education lessons for grades seven, eight, and nine.
Before the meeting, parents sent the school board an email that objected to the curriculum’s use of Planned Parenthood documents in the sex education lessons. In addition, some parents disapproved of lessons teaching children that gender identity can differ from sexual anatomy.
Concerned parents attending the recent school board meeting argued that the lessons provided children with age-inappropriate information about sex.
Hillsdale Baptist Church Pastor Travis Smith told the school board, “I do not tolerate anyone who violates the purity of a child. And neither should you.”
Two school board members, Melissa Snively and Stacey Hahn, agreed with the concerned parents and voted against the curriculum.
Snively said that the opt-out forms provided to parents did not clearly explain the details and depth of the topics the teachers planned to discuss with students.
“Warning, warning, warning, parents,” Snively said at the school board meeting. “There are a lot of things that might make you uncomfortable and might make your child uncomfortable.”
The form provided by the Hillsborough school board only included a bullet list with the general topics that would be covered for each grade level. However, the digital opt-out process handout included a link to the full curriculum online.
According to state law, every parent must be provided an opt-out form if they wish to have their child removed from sexual education courses.
Jacalyn Muir, another parent who opposed the curriculum, told WFTS-TV, “I didn’t agree with an opt-out. I think we need an opt-in.”
School board member Stacey Hahn expressed concern about links in the lesson materials that provided students with information on condoms and morning-after pills.
Superintendent Addison Davis defended the material. “This is a curriculum that we feel strongly about,” he said.
Muir said she looked at the online portal for parents and alleged that she found disturbing information in the lesson plans.
“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.
A school board member in support of the curriculum, Lynn Gray, said she felt comfortable with the material because community members and attorneys reviewed it. Gray said it is better for children to learn about sexual education from experts than online.
“While I understand talking about sex and body parts can be very uncomfortable, the reality is that most of these kids are not learning what they need to know to keep themselves healthy,” said Tracey Miller, a gynecologist and supporter of the lesson materials.
“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,” concerned parent Aly Legge told WFTS-TV. “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.”