Sex Education in Florida

As we discover more about the setting of Dry Land and what being a teen in Florida is like, one of the things that’s come up is the state’s sex ed curriculum — what kind of information might teens like Amy and Ester receive about sex in school?


According to the Guttmacher Institute, Florida is currently one of 28 states in the US that does not mandate sexual or reproductive health education be taught in school. Most high school students must receive one-half credit in “life management skills” in either ninth or tenth grade in order to graduate, but there are no requirements or standards for the course content.

When sex ed is taught in Florida schools, it must be age appropriate, but there is no requirement that it be medically and scientifically accurate. The state also requires that instructors stress abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students, as well as cover negative outcomes of teen sex.

A 2007 study by the University of Florida assessing state sex ed practices in middle and high schools found that students received inconsistent instruction with a wide range of accuracy:

“What we found was quite concerning, particularly in light of the fact that levels of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies continue to rise in Florida and the state ranks second in the nation in terms of annual incident HIV infections,” said lead investigator Brian Dodge, formerly of the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

The researchers found regional differences in program content in Florida’s public schools. Teachers in North Florida were twice as likely as teachers in Central Florida and three times as likely as those in South Florida to teach an abstinence-only curriculum, which typically does not cover the risks and benefits of contraceptives, said research team member Frank Bandiera, a graduate of UF’s Master of Public Health program and a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“Most people are aware that there are major cultural differences between, say, Miami and Tallahassee,” Bandiera said. “What we found in terms of sex education, though, is that these places may as well be on different planets.”

“More than half of sex educators used a ‘locally developed curriculum,’” Dodge said. “In reality this could be anything. Respondents to our survey reported using everything 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 or philosophical foundations for sex education in Florida.”

It sounds like Florida teens might need some” target=”_blank”>help from John Oliver:

Quick Question: What are bath salts?

Bath Salts—don’t you like eat cat’s faces and shit?

The term “bath salts” refers to an emerging family of recreational synthetic drugs that typically take the form of white powder, granules, or crystals that resemble true bath salts like Epsom salt. They are often especially dangerous because they frequently contain other, unknown ingredients that can have additional harmful side effects.

Users of bath salts report hallucinatory effects similar to drugs like LSD or MDMA. Paranoia, panic attacks, and violent behavior are also associated with use, and media reports about the drug frequently highlight these tendencies.

One of the news stories Ester is likely referring to in the text above is from a 2012 report out of Miami, sometimes called the Miami Cannibal Attack, in which a man named Rudy Eugene was caught on film attacking a homeless man on the side of the highway. The video of the incident showed Eugene, who had stripped naked, beating the homeless man, removing his pants, and then biting off the upper half of the man’s face, ultimately leaving him blind in both eyes. Police reports of the incident initially suggested bath salts as a potential factor in the attack, and subsequent news stories were quick to spread that theory, but toxicology reports later showed only marijuana in Eugene’s system.

Florida State & Seminole Swimming

Florida State University, founded in 1851, is located in Tallahassee, Florida — within a few hours’ drive of the high school where Dry Land takes place. As Amy mentions, “Like half of the people who I know who graduated last year go there.”

In the Fall 2014 semester, 41,773 students made up the student population of Florida State, and the in-state tuition rate for undergrads was $5,644/year. FSU’s school colors are garnet and gold, and their mascot is the Seminole.

The Florida State Seminole

The Florida State Seminole

In the play, Ester’s visit to Florida State for her swimming tryout is the only time we leave the high school’s locker room. The prospect of attending college and possibly getting a swimming scholarship is a big deal for Ester, and while we don’t see swim test, she does share her anxiety about it with Victor, a current FSU student. While sitting and talking in a dorm hallway, they touch on the sports culture of the school:


Sorry, it’s just that this school can make you a little sports-averse if that’s not your thing.

I’m sorry it’s just like hard for me not to see you as like—I don’t know I’m sure this sounds completely ludicrous to you, but— an oppressive force.


An oppressive force?


Not you. But like. I don’t know. You’re getting scouted for swimming.
Like you’ll probably get some boyfriend like my roommate you know? Or at least your picture on the wall or something with your whole team, smiling, being really physically fit together. Eating all the meat in the dinning halls in your sweat pants and wet hair—at your reserved table. Smiling.
And I’ll be like listening to the Vampire Weekend Pandora station in the common room with my RA named Fred.

Florida State’s sports teams compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level, which is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. They have a robust athletic program that includes nine men’s and eleven women’s teams, ranging from football and basketball, to track and field, swimming, and tennis. FSU has been ranked among the top fifty NCAA Division I athletic programs in the country since the early 1990s, and spent nearly $87 million for its sports teams and facilities in the 2014-2015 school year.

Below are some images of the FSU campus, including the swimming facilities that Ester likely used for her tryout. You can also take a virtual campus tour online, or check out more Florida State swimming photos and information at the Seminoles Swimming and Diving webpage.

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