For the first time in nearly 20 years, New York City public middle and high schools will be mandated to incorporate sex education as a part of the public school curriculum. This will include age appropriate and culturally sensitive lessons on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, the risk of unprotected sex, HIV and STI prevention, and how to use condoms. The new proposal will be implemented in the second semester of the 2011-2012 school year and calls for students to receive a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and once again in 9th or 10th grade. Parents will also be given the option to remove their children from lessons on contraception.
“Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) strongly supports the requirement that sex education be instituted in New York City public middle and high schools. For far too long, abstinence has dominated the conversation of sex education in our public school system,” said Marjorie Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC. “Age-appropriate comprehensive sex education is a welcomed and much-needed development that will go a long way towards educating students on the practices of safer sex, thus helping to reduce new HIV infections.”
The new mandate is also part of a larger initiative by Mayor Bloomberg to improve the health and well-being of black and Latino teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, black teens accounted for 75% of all diagnosed HIV infections in 2008 in youth ages 13 to 19. Additionally, black and Latino young men who have sex with men are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection. This underscores the need to have comprehensive sex education available in public school systems at an early age and the new policy will help provide students the tools and resources for them to be empowered and protect themselves.