DCPS approves sex ed supplemental curriculum

The Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) Board recently approved “supplemental health education materials for reproductive health and disease prevention” for the 2022-23 school year.

At a Dec. 6 meeting, board members voted five-to-two in favor of these supplemental materials for the district’s elementary, middle and high schools to complement the state-approved textbook adopted in 2007.

DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene fielded several questions posed by board members regarding the lessons included in the supplements and whether or not an opt-out (or an opt-in) option would be made available to parents.

Greene confirmed there will be an opt-out option for parents who do not want their children participating in the class, emphasizing, however, that it is a blanket opt-out, not — as Vice Chairwoman Cindy Pearson (District 3) inquired, an “à la carte” option to select which specific lessons are withheld from a child.

“We cannot just say, ‘pick and choose,’” Greene said. “..You’re opting out of —Yes, it is all of it, the reproduction, the instruction on STDs, HIV. You’re opting out of that.”

Greene emphasized these are supplemental materials, from which certain lessons will be pulled to complement the textbook already in use in the district’s health classes and, she added, not every lesson in those supplemental texts will be taught.

Greene said, “There are lessons in the book that we will not teach in our district. That information will be clearly defined on our website and, as I stated, parents will know it” when the opt-out forms are uploaded to their parent portals.

“I think we have to pass this comprehensive sex education,” said Board Member Darryl Willie (District 4). “Our kids are talking about it, they’re experiencing it, they have questions about it. This is our responsibility and obligation to make sure we are educating our youth to make sure they make healthy decisions and respect each other for the decisions that other folks make. That’s the reason why we have this education and we have professionals to do it.”

Board Members Charlotte Joyce (District 6) and April Carney (District 2) both opposed the supplemental curriculum, expressing concern regarding the discussions of gender identity included in the texts.

“I don’t believe in the state of our world right now that we need to add this to our curriculum,” Carney said. “Our children are already being inundated through social media, through corporations that are advertising these types of things. We are creating more confusion and more mental illness by continuing to promote something that’s not factual. So for me, I believe that we can be all-inclusive for every student by sticking to reproductive health and HIV and STD prevention.”

When Board Member Lori Hershey (District 7) asked specifically whether gender identity would be taught from the supplemental material, Greene responded, “No, we are not teaching gender [identity] in the middle school. Do we teach about LGBTQ students that can be connected to HIV? Yes we do, because that community of individuals can have a high risk of contracting HIV. So no, it is not taught as a standalone…It is taught related to possibly contracting a disease.”

The adoption of supplemental materials must be revisited annually. Typically, it is introduced in the spring to allow for discussions into the summer, if necessary, before the beginning of a new school year. Greene added the DCPS Board will be revisiting “a statewide health curriculum adoption” for the 2024-25 school year.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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