Hillsborough school board decides to move forward with sex-ed curriculum after petitions

The Hillsborough County School Board decided to move forward with the sexual education curriculum Thursday after a lot of debate surrounding the topic during the school year. 

The school board held a special meeting over the district's new sex education curriculum. Some parents and activists said it goes too far, but others support it, and it really heated up in the past two to three months. 

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The curriculum was approved by the school board in the Fall for seventh, eighth and ninth graders. Several conservative and church-based organizations filed a petition with the board to toss out the curriculum. 

Those who objected the curriculum believe it should be more abstinence-based and that it includes topics that aren't appropriate. The board brought in hearing master Claudia Isom, a former circuit judge with a court background in family law and guardianship. 

READ: Judge Isom's recommendation here

Isom determined the district followed state law that the objections were not valid and recommended the district should move forward with the approved lesson plans. In her review of the evidence presented, Isom in part wrote the following:

The School Board has a statutory duty to provide education in a variety of areas which includes education of reproductive health or any disease related to human reproduction, including HIV/AIDS, its symptoms, development, and treatment. Such materials must be annually approved by a district school board in an open, noticed public meeting.

The board's decision Thursday sided with the judge, but the vote wasn't unanimous. 

"The judge as reviewed, not just made a decision, but has reviewed the process," Hillsborough School Board Chair Nadia Combs said. "So people can continue to poke holes on the process or the content, but the judge has spoken, and I have read over this. So for me, as a school board member, I'm going to follow the process and support the judge's decision."

"This part in this approval is whether or not we vetted this curriculum appropriately," School Board Member Patti Rendon said. "I believe I have given evidence that we have not, and we should vote no on this recommendation."

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The special meeting held Thursday was called, because the petition to change the curriculum received roughly 3,000 signatures. Those who spoke during the meeting complained about topics, including sexuality, gender identity and sexual activity. 

Before the board came to a final decision, they heard from more than a dozen people who signed the petition, which were the only people allowed to speak at the meeting. Parents who approve the curriculum spoke out during the regular school board meeting Tuesday.