Florida schools have month’s end to submit their sex ed lesson plans for review
By Sept. 30, school districts must submit any instructional material used to teach reproductive health
Tallahassee Democrat | By Ana Goñi-Lessan | September 14, 2023
Florida school districts have until the end of the month to turn in their sex education lesson plans for review and approval.
By Sept. 30, school districts must submit any instructional material used to teach reproductive health, any sexually transmitted disease including HIV/AIDS, and all materials that include instruction on human sexuality, according to a Florida Department of Education memo dated Sept. 8.
The DOE memo, written by Chancellor of Public Schools Paul Burns, also reminds school district superintendents that the law requires to teach “biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing the female egg with male sperm; that the female then gestates the offspring; and that these reproductive roles are binary, stable, and unchangeable.”
Paul Burns, chancellor for the Division of K-12 Public Schools at the Florida Department of Education, speaks to the House Education Quality Subommittee at the House Office Building in the Capitol Complex in Tallahassee, Fla. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Chasity Maynard/Tallahassee Democrat
The quick turnaround is a new requirement under HB 1069, a law that also impacts all instructional materials in schools, including classroom libraries, and adds more oversight to the book challenge process.
This is the first year districts must submit their lesson plans to https://www.flrequiredinstruction.org/, a reporting portal with DOE.
State-adopted materials do not have to be submitted to the portal for review, the memo states.
A state worker exits the Ralph D. Turlington Florida Education Center during the lunch hour Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. Tori Lynn-Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat
According to state statute, districts are required to teach students about sexually transmitted diseases, the signs, symptoms and the risk factors for those diseases while also promoting abstinence as “the expected standard for all school-age students while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.”
Florida law also allows parents to opt their student out of any instruction they do not want taught to their child.
In Hillsborough County, Moms for Liberty members are encouraging parents to review the seventh grade sex education curriculum for topics about consent, which they say removes parents from the discussion and teaches students they only need “consent and condoms” before sex.
One video included in the lesson plan lists which adults in a child’s life are mandated reporters, which one mother says is “a warning to watch out who you share your sexual encounters with.”
“Consent is an adult issue, not an 11 and 12-year-old issue. Anyone who suggests that teaching consent to an average classroom of 11 or 12-year-olds has failed their responsibility as an adult or is morally deficient,” said Julie Gebhards at a Sept. 7 school board meeting.
“The language of consent opens up the slippery slope that leads to pedophilia,” she added.
Gebhards told USA TODAY FLORIDA-Network she is grateful for DOE’s new lesson plan oversight.
“I certainly hope DOE will catch things like this, but I will be proactively sharing my concerns with them as well,” she said.
In Leon County, the district plans to submit its sex education lesson plans from last year for review, according to spokesperson Chris Petley. The school board recently approved the sex education curriculum in May, but not without pushback from the county’s local Moms for Liberty chapter.
Moms for Liberty members criticized the supplemental content for middle schoolers, saying it was age-inappropriate, “dehumanizing,” and promoted promiscuity among girls.
It was the first time the district’s human growth and development lessons had been contested, according to a district administrator.
In Miami this spring, the school board initially rejected the adoption of a sexual education textbook after conservative parents complained, but later adopted it after realizing there were no other instructional materials available, which would leave the district out of compliance with state statute.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Moms for Liberty Summit in Philadephia, June 30, 2023. Over the years DeSantis has embraced and expanded his Ivy League credentials, but is now reframing his experiences at Yale and Harvard for the presidential primary run to wage a vengeful political war. HAIYUN JIANG, NYT
Over the summer at the national Moms for Liberty conference, a private session called “Comprehensive Sex Education: Sex Ed or Sexualization” by conservative education activist Kelly Schenkoske argued comprehensive human growth and development lessons were a way for school districts to sneak in instruction about critical race theory and social and emotional learning.
Both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is campaigning to be the Republican nominee for president, and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz were also guest speakers at the group’s convention in June.
Social and emotional learning, known as SEL, has already come under attack in Florida for its comparisons to academic concepts like critical race theory and has been labeled by conservatives as “woke indoctrination.” Moms for Liberty chapters across the state have been campaigning to remove the lessons from schools.
In Florida, the department of education has recently distanced itself from SEL and rebranded its mental health care curriculum as “resiliency.” Florida school districts are also required to have mental health care under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.