Sex Education
New York City schools will be teaching comprehensive sex education. Image: Flickr / nauright / CC-BY-SA

New York City schools, until now, have had a piecemeal approach to sex education. All schools taught the state-mandated health class, which did not necessarily include any kind of sex education. Now, all New York City schools will require sex ed for middle school and high school students.

New York City sex education

The sexual education programs that New York City will be requiring in all schools will be targeted to particular age groups. One class will be required in sixth or seventh grade and another in ninth or 10th grade. Middle school students will be led in discussions about the consequences of unsafe sex and pregnancy, as well as issues surrounding puberty. Studies show that by age 15, one-quarter of males and 26 percent of females have engaged in intercourse. High school students will be taught relationship skills including how to avoid abusive relationships. A discussion on birth control, including abstinence and condoms, will also be included, with demonstrations available in health resource centers if requested. Parents will be able to opt their students out of these classes.

Federal funding for abstinence education dropping

Federally supported abstinence-only education programs have been around since 1982. In 1996, welfare reform contained a mandate for the federal government to spend $50 million per year to fund abstinence-only educational programs. Funding of these programs has grown to include almost $1 billion per year. In 2011, 30 states accepted federal funding that requires abstinence-only education be taught in schools, for a total of slightly more than $33 million.

Abstinence-only education effectiveness

The number of states that are embracing abstinence-only education has been dropping along with the federal funding. In large part, this is due to several studies showing that abstinence-only education is not only ineffective, it can be dangerous. Teens who go through abstinence-only education programs are just as likely to engage in sexual activity; an average of 66 percent of teens have had intercourse by the age of 18. Teens who receive abstinence-only education are much less likely to use protection, causing more unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Controversy over in-school sex education

The New York City schools will be teaching what is known as “comprehensive” sex education, which covers abstinence, birth control and decision-making around sex. A survey study by NPR and the Kaiser Foundation found that 15 percent of Americans believe that abstinence-only education should be taught in schools, while 46 percent believe that an “abstinence-plus” program that teaches abstinence as best and basic birth control information is best. Only 36 percent of those surveyed believe that a comprehensive sex education program would be best.


New York Daily News
Open Education
Kinsey Institute
Advocates for Youth
US Department of Health and Human Services

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