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Sex education dispute takes center stage in Hillsborough County schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Claudia Isom, an independent hearing officer, listens to audience members speak at the Hillsborough County school district headquarters on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in Tampa.
Claudia Isom, an independent hearing officer, listens to audience members speak at the Hillsborough County school district headquarters on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Nov. 18

The big story: Two years ago, Florida lawmakers required school districts to publish their sex education curriculum in advance of an annual adoption, to give the public more opportunities to weigh in.

Ever since, the subject has become increasingly volatile in some communities. Fights over content took place in Miami-Dade and Duval counties earlier this year, and this week the debate made its way to Hillsborough County.

Claiming the rights of parents as defined in Florida law were undermined, thousands of Hillsborough residents petitioned against the school district’s sex education curriculum. Several of them presented their views to an independent hearing officer during a nearly 5-hour hearing on Thursday.

During that time, they argued that the school district was presenting obscene information to children and attempting to indoctrinate youngsters with political concepts masquerading as science. District officials rebutted the contentions, saying they met all the requirements for providing reproductive health lessons as set forth in state law and standards.

Now it’s up to retired judge Claudia Isom to make a recommendation to the School Board, which still has final say over the issue. Read more here.

Hot topics

Academic freedom: U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled Florida’s “Stop WOKE” act governing lessons about race issues should not apply to the state’s universities and colleges. He found the state argument that professors only had academic freedom if they expressed the viewpoint of the state “positively dystopian.”

Book challenges: A Volusia County public librarian created a banned book club for children who cannot get books they cannot find in school, WOFL reports.

Elections: A candidate for Broward County School Board has challenged the eligibility of her opponent, who won the popular vote but had not had his voting rights restored after a felony conviction, WLRN reports. • Conservative organizations backing school board candidates found more success in Florida than in other parts of the nation, Education Week reports.

School choice: The Palm Beach County school district has 330 choice programs, with five being the most competitive, the Palm Beach Post reports.

School security: Polk County sheriff Grady Judd called for more armed officers or trained civilians to be on school campuses in case a shooter shows up, WTVT reports.

University presidents: Florida Gulf Coast University trustees decided to restart their presidential search after two of three finalists dropped out, Politico Florida reports.

Other school news

The Polk County school district is looking for a new school site. The School Board has delayed a decision while it reviews its options, the Ledger reports.

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Palm Beach County home sales are becoming more dependent on school availability. Many families want to be sure they have access to private schools, WPTV reports.

The Okaloosa County school district launched a new job training program for students with disabilities. The students are getting hands-on experience in the hospitality industry, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Next week is Thanksgiving. How about the Addams Family version before you head off to enjoy?

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