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Hillsborough Schools updating sex-ed curriculum causing controversy over what should be taught

Hillsborough County Schools is implementing a new sex education curriculum for 8th and 9th graders.

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public Schools received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update their sex education curriculum.

Before this year, it was last revised in 2007. Currently, eight middle schools and five high schools will adopt the new curriculum before expanding it district-wide. This new education will be taught to 8th and 9th graders.

According to the district, the policy focuses on abstinence, healthy relationships and contraception. The district used student survey results in creating their curriculum.

"We found our data pretty alarming. Our rates are pretty high in Hillsborough County for STD’s, HIV. We wanted to make sure we’re doing what’s best for all of our students in meeting the needs and really targeting the behaviors that are out there and educating them," said Ashlee Cappucci, the supervisor for health education in Hillsborough County Schools.

The Florida Health Department's numbers for 2018 showed that in Hillsborough County there were 790 teen births. That number includes teens from ages 15-19. Health officials said seven kids ages 10-14 gave birth.

Hillsborough County reported 1,605 cases of kids up to the age of 18 having bacterial STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. 

On Friday, the Tampa Tiger Bay Club hosted a panel discussion on how sex education should be taught in Hillsborough County schools.

Terry Kemple, President of the Community Issues Council was the lone panelist pushing for an abstinence-only approach. Kemple is part of the Protect Our Children Project across Tampa Bay. Their mission is "to protect children by informing residents about the public school policies being used to sexualize students and hide it from their parents."

Kemple believes teaching students about condoms sends the wrong message.

"Basically that teaches kids that they’re expected to have sex," said Kemple.

Hillsborough County Schools have spent the last year coming up with the curriculum. The district opted to take out a controversial condom activity after consulting parents.

"Personally I would love to see that activity stay in the curriculum but understand there are parts of our county that are averse to it," said Damaris Allen, PTA President, Hillsborough County Schools.

The district plans on evaluating and consulting teachers, students, and parents after this year to see what additions or tweaks need to be made before taking the new curriculum district wide.

If you want to know about your county's teen pregnancy and STD rates, check here.

RELATED: 1/3 of Americans think you can get an STD from a toilet seat, survey finds

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