Hillsborough schools will survey students about sex

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TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board wants to ask students about sex.

Citing alarming rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitting disease, Chairwoman April Griffin proposed including questions about sexual behavior in a survey the district will conduct about high-risk behavior.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey already is given to middle and high school students in many school districts, including some in Florida, said Alberto Vazquez, the district's chief of staff.

"It allows us to begin to create partnerships with other agencies to provide outreach programs to address needs that can surface through the data," he said.

The survey was administered in years past in Hillsborough, but without questions about sexual behavior, Griffin said.

The motion passed unanimously at Tuesday's meeting. Parents can have their children opt out if they choose, Vazquez said.

It was not entirely clear what the next step would be once the results are tallied. Board member Doretha Edgecomb warned against expecting the school system to be "all things to all people."

But Griffin said other institutions, including the state Department of Health and the University of South Florida, have already expressed an interest in assisting with counseling efforts. And participation in the survey can help the district get grant funding.

"Our youth are at risk, right here and right now," Griffin said, citing statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The board also discussed the proliferation of privately managed charter schools, as it prepared to approve a 15-year contract renewal for the successful Winthrop Charter School in Riverview.

Edgecomb and board member Carol Kurdell, who are leaving the board when their terms end in November, voted against the Winthrop renewal and a five-year renewal for Woodmont Charter School in Temple Terrace. Both are managed by the for-profit Charter Schools USA.

"I will vote against a charter every single time," said Kurdell, making the case that the movement has gone far beyond its original intent to promote independent, innovative schools. "It has grown into a monster I can no longer support."

The board agreed to meet in a workshop to make sure members fully understand the state laws that govern their role in approving or disapproving charters.

The board also named two new high school principals: Jennifer Sparano to Brandon High and Robert Bhoolai to Robinson High.

Sparano worked most recently as assistant principal at Tampa Bay Technical High School. Bhoolai was assistant principal of Williams Magnet Middle School.

The board named Kimberly Workman as general director of Exceptional Student Education. Workman replaces Maryann Parks, who is retiring.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

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