TAMPA, Fla. — The Hillsborough School Board voted 5-2 in favor adopting the sexual education curriculum Tuesday evening. The vote came after a public comment session that heard parents and grandparents speak out on both sides of the issue.

What You Need To Know

  • The Hillsborough County school board met to address new sex ed curriculum for 7th-9th graders

  • Department of Education contacted Superintendent Addison Davis asking the content be revised to make it more age appropriate

  • Content in question was later pulled and the sexual education curriculum went up for review

"Sex education, I believe, is so important for the children, but I don't think that the sexual education that is being proposed is in any way appropriate or in any way helpful," Cara Stahle told Spectrum News. Stahle said she chose to send her ten-year-old to private school rather than Hillsborough Schools. She and other parents expressed concerns about an online component that directs students to sites like Teen Connect Tampa Bay. It offers information about sexual health topics and has a section that allows users to reach out to team members to ask questions.

Kevin Belickis said his five-year-old will begin attending Hillsborough Schools next year. He told the board he's in favor of the curriculum.

"It's not dirty words," Belickis said. "This isn't inappropriate to teach a child to understand what their body parts are or how consent looks."

Board members who voted in favor of the program noted it promotes abstinence, was developed in accordance with legislation, and parents can opt out. Those who voted against it said they want the district to be very transparent with families about what is covered in the curriculum.



School board members in Hillsborough County are set to review and vote on the sexual education curriculum for its 7th through 9th graders during a scheduled meeting late Tuesday afternoon. 

For 8th and 9th graders, the district has been teaching sexual health classes since 2019 while the program for 7th graders started last year. 

The 7th grade curriculum was met with some pushback last school year after several parents found parts of the lessons inappropriate for preteens. A vignette about a fictional character watching porn, drinking, and receiving pressure from his friends to have sex was a concern for many parents. 

In May, the Department of Education contacted Superintendent Addison Davis asking the content be revised to make it more age appropriate. The content in question was later pulled and the sexual education curriculum went up for review for the 2022-2023 school year. 

“We also understand that these materials may have been developed through a supporting CDC grant,” wrote Jared Ochs, Communication Director for the Florida Department of Education in an email in May. “While we know the county will ultimately look into the development of this curriculum, we find it concerning that the CDC might have any involvement in funding or encouraging the development of inappropriate materials for 7th graders. The DOE will be following up with Hillsborough County on the exact specifications of the grant to see if it was also used in other counties and if it advocates for an inappropriate level of context.” 

Following this incident, modifications and changes were made and the new curriculum was sent out in late August for parents to review. An electronic opt-out form was included so any parent wishing to pull their student from the sexual health lessons have the ability to do so. 


Erin Maloney, Director of Media & Public Relations for Hillsborough County schools says the curriculum was designed to give students medically accurate information on reproductive health. 

"The curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year was developed in accordance with new legislation, Board policy, and state standards," Maloney said in a statement. "Our district promotes abstinence as the first expected standard while also teaching them about healthy decision-making skills. Our curriculum fosters communication with parents and guardians to help continue the conversation at home.

"It is our goal to ensure students have a full understanding of reproductive health and disease prevention. This curriculum was written by a team of stakeholders including teachers, students, parents, and community members. As always, parents have the opportunity to review the curriculum and opt out if they feel it is best for their child."

A group of parents and grandparents with the Protect our Children Project and Moms for Liberty remain concerned about the content for 7th grade students. Specifically parts of the lesson where students are asked to label line drawings of genitalia and a pre-test where students are asked what they know and don’t know about various types of sex and STD’s. 

“When these kids are presented particularly with sexual concepts that they’re not familiar with, they’re not going to ask their buddies because their buddies will laugh at them, what they’re gonna do is go online, then they’re going to find information that their parents certainly would not want them finding. So bringing these concepts in at this stage of a kids development is inappropriate,” said Terry Kemple, the great-grandfather of a 7th grader. 

Those against the new curriculum plan to share their concerns with school board members at Tuesday night’s meeting before the scheduled vote.