JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A planned discussion of the material Duval County Public Schools uses to teach students about reproductive health was pulled from Monday night’s school board agenda.
The district had planned to discuss the approval of a slate of curriculum materials from third parties including HealthSmart, Draw the Line/Respect the Line, and Reducing the Risk.
“Instead of adopting materials from any publishing company, the district will create its own supplemental materials to meet educational requirements defined in Florida statutes,” the district’s communication team wrote in a blog post.
The post went on to say that the curriculum under consideration did not “address all statutory requirements of law.”
“It has become abundantly clear to me that our internal team can create lessons and materials that serve students’ educational needs and meet our requirements under the law,” said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “Starting from scratch and adhering to the boundaries of Florida Statute will be a far easier task than trying to modify or find existing publisher materials that may or may not meet Florida’s standards.”.
The district will put together a team of health educators to develop new materials and lessons.
Those lessons are going to be made available to the public at least 20 days before a school board meeting. Then, they will be allowed to weigh in on the new materials before the board approves them.
This reevaluation of the curriculum is due to a 2021 revision to state law which requires each of Florida’s 67 school boards to annually approve all supplemental materials for sex ed.
A discussion about the topic dominated public comment Monday evening during a meeting of the Duval County School Board. Approximately 76 people spoke about it.
“I’ve always received an opt out form for sex ed,” said parent Katie Hathaway. “I received it on day two this year and I ripped it up because I will never forget attending that same middle school and going to school with an eighth grader, pregnant.”
“It’s very important to me to not talk sex to my children and call it health,” another woman told the board.
“It’s important that we consider teaching them facts, but the families need to be included in this,” said Michelle Matisso.
Greene explained the decision to delay the vote.
“It is clear the particular curriculum has stirred emotions on both sides of the issue,” Greene said. “Our requirement is to ensure we teach state standards.”
“What’s the deal with making this decision right now?” Board member Elizabeth Anderson asked. “My concern is that if we do it right now at 3 o’clock today there is nothing comprehensive set up for the school year.”
“The reality is, students are exposed to these things.” said board member Darryl Willie. “We’re going to make sure comprehensive education happens.”
The full text of the state statute at the center of this delay can be read in full below.
“Each district school board may provide instruction in acquired immune deficiency syndrome education as a specific area of health education. Such instruction may include, but is not limited to, the known modes of transmission, signs and symptoms, risk factors associated with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and means used to control the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The instruction shall be appropriate for the grade and age of the student and shall reflect current theory, knowledge, and practice regarding acquired immune deficiency syndrome and its prevention.
(2) Throughout instruction in acquired immune deficiency syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, or health education, when such instruction and course material contains instruction in human sexuality, a school shall:
(a) Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.
(b) Emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity is a certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and other associated health problems.
(c) Teach that each student has the power to control personal behavior and encourage students to base actions on reasoning, self-esteem, and respect for others.
(d) Provide instruction and material that is appropriate for the grade and age of the student.”§ 1003.46, Fla. Stat. (20210