In 2011, a new mandate was implemented by New York City’s public school system that would require middle and high schools to teach sexual education as part of the school’s curriculum for at least one school semester.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg intended to help Latino and black students, as city statistics show that they are far likelier to have unplanned pregnancies and obtain sexually transmitted diseases compared to their white counterparts.
However, this requirement has been poorly enforced by the Department of Education. Officials do not track schools to ensure that students are indeed being taught sexual education or to evaluate the quality of those who are.
The Planned Parenthood of New York City and other reproductive health and young advocacy groups are backing a bill before the City Council that would create a task force to examine whether sexual education is being taught in public schools and how it is being taught. The groups are also making recommendations for improvement. Statistics show that middle and high school students are not educated enough when it comes to practicing safe sex and understanding consent, as well as in a number of other areas including gender identity and sexual orientation.
In a recent survey by the Sexuality Education Alliance of New York City, it was reported that 38 percent of students from sixth to 12th grade who had received sexual education had not learned about consensual sex or how to put on a condom.
Another 43 percent had not learned about gender identity. In 2016, the Department of Education released data that showed 43 percent of eighth graders had never taken a semester of health class, let alone sexual education. It was also reported that only 153 of 15,000 instructors that taught health last year were licensed to do so. While over half of high school juniors and seniors have taken a health class, which do not always include sexual education, experts say that it is far too late to begin learning about healthy sexuality. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that on average, girls begin dating by age of 12 and a half, and boys by the age of 13 and a half.
The option to implement sexual education in the school’s curriculum has been left to school administrators and, as statistics have shown, not many of them believe it is important enough to teach. Personal biases among school administrators eventually lead to the decision of teaching or not teaching students about sexual education, including teaching about the ineffecive practice of abstinence education. Some people with strong and traditional cultural, political and religious views completely oppose the teaching of sexual education to younger students.
While it is a controversial subject, the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, which combines career training, financial literacy lessons, mental and physical health counseling and sexual education, is currently being tested in six New York City schools. A 2002 study shows that girls in the program were significantly less likely to have sex or get pregnant. More recent evaluations show higher rates of condom use among the same population.
Proper sexual education has proven to have positive results on students. School administrators should not be given the option to include sexual education in the school’s curriculum. Rather, it should be a requirement enforced and tracked by the government to make sure students are receiving proper education by instructors with the right training.
Baruch College offers a course on Human Sexuality and Family Planning, as well as free condoms and information on safe sex in the Health and Wellness suite in NVC 3-241. One may also find a variety of information on HIV or AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases on the school’s website. A list of free sexually transmitted disease clinics through New York are also listed.
Baruch also offers physical exams, primary care and women’s health services all at different costs while also accepting insurance. College students are expected to be mature enough to make the responsible decisions when it comes to sex. However, reminding them of the consequences of unsafe sex can make a difference.