OPINION: Hillsborough schools must continue to teach comprehensive sex education

Due to recent backlash, Hillsborough County Public School officials are considering making unnecessary changes to their sex education curriculum. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Hillsborough County passed a new public school sex education curriculum in September, as reported by Fox 13, and many parents are concerned. 

Community members voiced these concerns for hours in a special hearing Nov. 17. They also filed petitions, like the one tweeted by Bay News 9 reporter Angie Angers.

Regardless of the backlash, it would be irresponsible of school officials to remove material from the curriculum. It’s the school’s responsibility to ensure students have access to comprehensive sex education that gives them the skills to set boundaries and make healthy decisions in the future.

By providing children with this foundation, comprehensive sex ed may help protect them from violence, including sexual assault, domestic abuse and bullying, according to a 2020 article published in the Harvard Medical School Primary Care Report. 

These lessons teach students anatomically correct terms for body parts, which upset many parents, as stated in the petition. However, this is actually very beneficial to students as it helps normalize sexuality, builds confidence and gives them the terminology to describe sexual abuse, as stated in a 2021 study by Sexuality Education Legislation and Policy.

A comprehensive sex education program can continue to help students even after they graduate. It has been associated with a lower risk of sexual assault in college, which is a time when people are particularly at risk, according to a 2018 study published in the National Library of Medicine. 

There are parents who are able to see the benefits of this curriculum.

“[They aren’t] dirty words. This isn’t inappropriate to teach a child to understand what their body parts are or how consent looks,” Kevin Belickis said in a Sept. 21 interview with Bay News 9. 

This curriculum promotes abstinence, teaches healthy decision-making skills, and fosters communication with parents to help continue the conversation at home, according to Director of Media and Public Relations for Hillsborough County Public Schools Erin Maloney in a Sept. 21 statement with Bay News 9. 

At the end of the day, if parents would rather this topic be discussed at home, they are easily able to opt out. The forms to do so for seventh, eighth and ninth grade are available on the Hillsborough County Public Schools website. 

There is no reason for school officials to pull this important information from this curriculum.

Not only is changing the curriculum unnecessary, it would be irresponsible for Hillsborough County Public School officials to take away information that would help students establish a foundation for making these kinds of healthy decisions.