Sexual health education (through Comprehensive Health Education) is required under Florida State Statute 1003.42 (2)(n) Required Instruction; however, parents can choose to opt their children out of the sexual health component of comprehensive health education.
Sexual health education in Florida is inclusive of pregnancy prevention options; lessons that would be considered part of age appropriate sexual health education may be taught and should be designed to meet the needs of students at various age and grade levels. In Florida schools, specific content of curriculum and instruction is determined by local school district policy.
Florida law also requires that the benefits of abstinence be stressed to students when sexual health education is taught. The benefits of abstinence can be stressed within abstinence-only, abstinence-plus, or comprehensive sexual health programs. Again, school districts in Florida choose the appropriate curriculum based on the needs of students and to reflect local values and concerns.
Renay Rouse, Public Information Officer with the Martin County Health Department in Stuart was very informative in providing information regarding health issues in the schools and the county health department’s input to all of the schools in the district. According to Renay Rouse, each school in Martin County is assigned a nurse (each nurse services multiple schools) that filters down pertinent information and materials to the schools.
The community program, “Empowering Teens” offers education outreach activities that provide teens with health information including abstinence, contraception, drug & alcohol use and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). With support from community partners and nurses from the Health Department’s school health team, the Empowering Teen’s Coordinator works to reach teens most at risk and identify barriers that might prevent teens from accessing health information and services.
Teen pregnancy in Martin County (according to the County Health Department) is increasing year by year and the number of repeat teenage mothers is also rising. The goal of the Empowering Teens program is to deliver comprehensive outreach activities that will connect with underserved teens to help reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. For more information on “Empowering Teens in Martin County” contact the program coordinator Shanika Mathieu at (772) 221-4000 ext. 2132.
The following data from the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show a significant number of students in Florida are putting their health at risk by possibly becoming pregnant or by contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
- 51% of students in grades 9-12 (365,700) reported having had sexual intercourse at least once.
- 12% of males and 4% of females (approximately 42,800 and 15,250 students respectively) had intercourse for the first time before age 13.
- 37% of 9th graders (approximately 73,800 students) have had sexual intercourse at least once.
- 63% of 12th graders (approximately 96,200) have had sexual intercourse at least once.
Ref: Florida Department of Education
Martin County Health Department