It has only been about three months since the Department of Education announced a new policy that makes sex education mandatory in middle and high school starting this current academic year.
As expected, conservative groups have begun an alarmist and highly misleading campaign to scare parents and pressure the Department of Education to rescind the policy.
It is insane, to say the least, that in 2011, a time when explicitly sexual images and messages overwhelm teenage media, our society is still debating whether we should educate our youth so they can understand and process the inescapable deluge of sexual information.
Teenage magazines these days come with headlines such as “be his best hookup,” and “flirt the right way;” adolescent TV shows are infused with sex scenes and unplanned pregnancy dramas; and our girls and boys’ celebrity role models are often drowning in a sea of sex and drug scandals.
Schools play a significant role in providing children with tools to navigate this information and make smarter and healthier choices.
And we are not talking in the abstract. According to the Center for Disease Control’s most recent survey, in 2009 nearly 42% of New York City high school students reported having had sex at least once; 32.4% did not use condon during the last intercorse, and 13.4% had sex with four or more persons. All these figures are higher among Latino students.
Parents must remember our city’s rates for teen pregnancy and STD’s exceed the national numbers.
The curriculum chosen by the Department of Education to teach sexual education –which, by the way, many schools have been using since 2007-is a research-based, age appropriate set of about 15 lessons throughout the year. Parents also have the option to opt their children out from the classes on contraceptive methods.
There is nothing parents should fear, except a society hung up on old precepts and unable to recognize the significance of education in all important matters, sex being one of them.
Many of our school children come from hard working families with little time or knowledge to help them understand sex. Schools are the appropriate place for them to receive this information.
The City should defend this decision as a critical education and public health matter, and provide parents with all the information they need to understand the importance of this new and long overdue mandate.