TAMPA — Hillsborough County school board members had a heated discussion Tuesday about whether to apply for a sex education grant the Florida Department of Education received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida is one of 19 states to receive the five-year grant, which offers a program called the Healthy School Project at no cost.
The school district currently has a human growth and development curriculum that begins in the fourth grade and concludes with a required course in high school that addresses topics like teen pregnancy, and HIV and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, sixth-grade science students and high school biology students receive sexual health education in their classes.
The grant provides professional development and technical assistance to school districts and would put into place activities to help schools improve student health, prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and gather county-specific data related to health education. The project also puts an emphasis on services to homeless students and gives students a health survey.
Chairwoman April Griffin said the board should at least consider applying for the grant. Board members noted that the deadline to express interest is Friday.
“We are seeing young men and women trapped in a world of poverty because they are children having children,” Griffin said. “This is not a pleasant conversation. We have to have it.”
But other board members did not agree. Member Doretha Edgecomb said there are not enough details about the grant for her to feel comfortable about applying for it.
“I think it's important for us to look at where we are before we look forward to this grant,” she said. “We already have in place a curriculum that addresses the CDC standards. What I'd like to do is to consider putting together a review team to look at our present curriculum. I think we already have the capacity and the staff to make it our own without having to apply for this grant with all of the questions that are unanswered.”
The board eventually voted 4-3 to discuss the grant at its next board meeting, with Edgecomb, Carol Kurdell, Candy Olson and Stacy White voting “yes” and Griffin, Cindy Stuart and Susan Valdes voting “no.”