A newly released assessment of Florida’s sex education curricula reveals a wide disparity in the quality and content of information offered to students. The study, released at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting on November 5, is raising a red flag among public health officials and educators.1
Florida is one of 23 states nationwide to require sex education in public schools.2 Researchers sought to evaluate the implementation of that law as there are no accompanying requirements for content, quality, or medical accuracy. Brian Dodge of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University served as lead investigator.3 The study surveyed teachers from across the state about the content of sex education in their curriculum. The survey was developed by a team of professionals consisting of a six-member scientific advisory committee and a twenty-member community advisory committee made up of teachers, public health workers, nurses, doctors, and school administrators from across Florida.4
The study revealed wide variations in sex education curricula. Although 87% of teachers said some form of sex education took place in their classrooms, only 16% worked in schools where it was required. 5 In addition, one third of teachers reported sex education as an opt-in requirement. Dodge’s results also showed variation by region. Central Florida teachers were more likely to use abstinence-only programs, while South Florida schools more often used comprehensive sex education programs that included information about contraceptives.6
The study also examined the source of curricula used in Florida. More than fifty percent of the teachers used “locally developed curriculum. In reality, this could be anything ... from formal state guidelines to random Internet information and outdated county curricula. In short, there appears to be no uniformity in terms of underlying value systems of philosophical foundation for sex education in Florida.”7
The study clearly shows that Florida’s law requiring sex education in all schools is only the first step to ensuring all students have access to medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education.
- Jill Pease, “Sex Education in Florida Schools Varies Widely, not available to all students,” University of Florida News, 5 November, 2007, accessed 28 November 2007, <http://news.ufl.edu/2007/11/05/sex-ed/> .
- Erica Hobbs, “Schools approach toward sex education varies widely across Florida, Orlando Sentinel, 8 November 2007, accessed 28 November 2007, <http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2007/11/schools-approac.html>.
- Abstract # 3254.0, American Public Health Association Conference, 5 November 2007, accessed 29 November 2007, <http://apha.confex.com/apha/135am/techprogram/paper_149649.htm>.
- Pease, “Sex Ed in Florida.”