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New Florida law strips school districts of authority over sexual education curriculum

Duval County School board members met to discuss what the new law will mean for health classes in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new law takes effect next month that will change what students learn in Florida classrooms starting this upcoming school year.

In the past, school districts had a lot of say in the sexual education curriculum.

Now, the state is taking all of that over, which could change what, and how much, students learn about reproductive health.

Sexual education was a big topic for Duval County parents last school year.

There were a lot of opinions as the school board tried to decide what kids learn about in sex-ed.

"Most kids are not fortunate enough to have these conversations at home, and therefore we need to have them at school," said one parent during public comment at a board meeting in October.

"We will raise them, and we will sexually educate them at an age that we choose, in our homes, according to our values," added another parent at that same meeting.

That's a decision the board won't be making this year.

"This is dangerous," said Board Member Darryl Willie during a special called meeting. "It's a slippery slope. It takes power from this table right here. We are elected to take care of our city, our families, and this doesn't do that."

A new law strips districts of their power to set the sexual education curriculum. Now, all teaching materials need to be approved by the state.

"Does the department of education have a list and this is the approved materials," Board Member Charlotte Joyce asked at that meeting. "I want to know what that will look like. As a board member, we want to know what are students are using as supplemental materials."

The interim superintendent mentioned there's still some uncertainty with how all this will work.

She's not sure if the school board will pick things they want to get approved by the state or if the state will send them a list to choose from.

They are waiting for more direction from the state.That new law defines sex based on chromosomes and body parts assigned at birth.

It also says health education instructors have to teach that reproductive roles are binary, stable and unchangeable. It requires them to teach abstinence outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school ages.

Board member Darryl Willie expressed some concerns with taking the decisions out of the district's hands.

"The whole issue we had before was our data and what our students need may be very different than some of the other 60-odd counties around," said Willie.

The new law also prevents any teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity from pre-k to eighth grade.

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