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A win, a tragedy and a storm to watch in Tampa Bay this week | Editorial
School board does right, a deputy killed and a tropical system bears on Florida.
In this image from a school district livestream, Hillsborough County School Board members debate a policy regarding lessons in reproductive health and disease for grades 7, 8 and 9 during their meeting on Sept. 20.
In this image from a school district livestream, Hillsborough County School Board members debate a policy regarding lessons in reproductive health and disease for grades 7, 8 and 9 during their meeting on Sept. 20. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Sep. 24

A few of this week’s highs and lows from around Tampa Bay.

Children need to know. The Hillsborough County School Board stood up for education and common sense by dismissing an attack this week on human sexuality instruction. As the Tampa Bay Times’ Marlene Sokol reported, social conservatives objected to lessons in reproductive health because they claimed the material was too descriptive and that parental opt-out forms were unclear. They said children should be able to use phrases such as “private parts” instead of specific terms denoting genital organs. These discussions may be uncomfortable to some, but they’re critical to children’s health, and communicating clearly with them instead of stigmatizing sex and parts of their bodies has a better chance at producing positive outcomes. The board approved the curriculum 5-2, with Stacy Hahn and Melissa Snively dissenting. It’s a shame this exercise in responsible behavior did not win unanimous approval.

Remember Michael Hartwick. The death Thursday night of Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick is heartbreaking. Hartwick, 51, was working a traffic detail to provide safety for road construction crews who were working overnight on Interstate 275. Hartwick blocked the two inside southbound lanes of the interstate and got out of his patrol cruiser when a man operating a front end loader struck him, officials said. Authorities said the worker, Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, ran away after the accident; he was apprehended Friday morning and officials said he faces a charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving death. This tragedy is another reminder of how law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. Hartwick may have been their largely to protect the construction crews, but he was protecting them because the interstate needed to remain open — for the rest of us. He was a deputy with the sheriff’s office for 19 years, a long legacy of safeguarding this community.

Council’s cash machine. Not many politicians are dense enough to vote themselves a pay hike before an election. For that, three Tampa City Council members should be thankful for losing that opportunity this week. The council voted 4-3 on Thursday against bringing back a proposal that would award them an immediate 42 percent increase. (Does the sponsor, Orlando Gudes, really need more bad press?) Nobody can deny that council posts have grown into full-time jobs. But raising their salaries to nearly $74,000 from $52,060 in a single swoop deserves a full public debate, not the last-minute stab on Thursday. Gudes and his colleagues on the losing side, Lynn Hurtak and Bill Carlson, appeared tone-deaf, even if a raise deserves consideration. What the mayor makes is not the issue; the question is what’s appropriate for council given its responsibility in a city Tampa’s size. An increase? Fine. But not like this.

Watch that storm. We’ll say it again: Watch the tropical storm that’s snaking its way this weekend through the Caribbean Sea. Tropical Depression Nine formed early Friday and could strengthen into a major hurricane as it nears Florida next week, forecasters said. As of Friday, most of the Florida peninsula was in the dreaded forecast cone, though forecasters can’t be certain of the exact path or magnitude of the storm this far out. The depression is expected to reach Jamaica as a tropical storm Sunday and the Cayman Islands as a hurricane Monday, and to move over or near Cuba early next week. So get those hurricane plans in place, along with bottled water, nonperishable food and other necessities. Stay informed this weekend, and if necessary, use the time to get the house and family in order. Many newer Floridians have never experienced these storms. You don’t get a second chance to be prepared.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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