Pasco County schools overhauling health, sex education courses

Change is coming to health and sex education at Pasco County schools. The curriculums are being revised for the first time in 15 years, based partially on results of surveys taken by students.

More than 1,400 students from 13 high schools filled out an anonymous and voluntary survey covering a wide range of health-related behaviors. 

The results have prompted district leaders to look at major changes to health and sexual education curriculums.

Some of the notable statistics found in the surveys are:

- 36.5% of students say they have had sexual intercourse. 
- 3.4% of students under the age of 13 say they have had sexual intercourse.
- More than 42% felt sad or hopeless almost every day for more than two weeks. 
- About 38% have used marijuana.
- 48% of students have used a vape.

View more key statistics from the survey here.

District leaders are using those answers to make sure what's being taught is relevant.

"Our kids are different now. There are a lot of things out there: internet safety, human trafficking, vaping, things we weren't teaching that our kids are faced with every day in school," said Pasco County Health Program Coordinator Matthew Wicks.

The district was able to give the comprehensive Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey thanks to money from a grant. The results show the need for big changes to what's being taught, so school leaders plan to implement a new human growth and development curriculum for fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth grades.

School officials plan to make decisions about the new curriculum in the next month, and it's expected to be in place this school year. 

Among those changes: students will no longer be separated by gender during lessons about puberty and male and female bodies.

The school district said the education and student safety are its top priorities and sexual education is a big part of both.

"These aren't things we would normally have any data on, or have any way to get data on, and it's stuff that really kinda prevents kids from learning in the classroom," said Wicks.