Engaging Community to Implement a Locally Tailored Sexual Health Education Curriculum

Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida

Hillsborough County Public Schools, with support from CDC, developed a new sexual health education curriculum tailored to meet their students’ needs and engaged key community members to successfully implement the new curriculum in all high schools.

Hillsborough County Public Schools started developing a new sexual health education curriculum by pulling together a committee of health education teachers, school district staff, and individuals from the community. The committee used CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) to review existing curricula and decided that none would meet the needs of all Hillsborough County Public Schools’ students.

The committee also used district-level Youth Risk Behavior Survey data to identify the most concerning experiences and behaviors among Hillsborough students. Based on these data, they designed a new curriculum to build students’ knowledge and skills in the most important areas for improving the health of their students.

Teacher and teenage student walking in school hallway

Hillsborough had community members who supported the curriculum and others who voiced concerns. To address these concerns and clarify misconceptions, district staff:

  • Communicated frequently and transparently with the school board and district community members before implementing the new curriculum.
  • Met with the school board members and other leaders to review and collect feedback on the content of the new curriculum,
  • Held one-on-one meetings with community members to walk through each lesson, and provided opportunities for community members to share their concerns with board members.

Engaging the district community in this way was critical to Hillsborough County Public Schools’ smooth implementation of their new sexual health education curriculum.

The curriculum was initially implemented in five high schools during the 2019-2020 school year. District staff then conducted pre- and post-tests with students who received the curriculum, observed classrooms, and held focus groups with students and teachers to improve the curriculum before implementing it in every high school.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the district to pivot to virtual learning, Hillsborough County Public Schools created an online training so that health education teachers from every high school could still build the skills needed to teach the new curriculum. They also created an e-learning version of each lesson so that students had access to quality sexual health education regardless of learning mode.

By identifying the needs of students, engaging community members, and being flexible and responsive to changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hillsborough County Public Schools created and implemented a quality, evidence-based, locally tailored sexual health education curriculum reaching more than 10,000 high school students across the district.