By Charlotte Baron
Sexual Education in New York – another casualty.
New York State is one of the 21 states that do not mandate that sexuality education (sex ed) be part of the required academic curriculum. Despite New York State’s image as a progressive bastion, there are no state standards – not even regarding birth control, std’s or simply saying “no”. 2020 was supposed to be the year that changed, with the passage of comprehensive legislation requiring age-appropriate sexuality education for K-12. But, now, with the coronavirus, budgetary challenges, and the rest of the legislative session in question, the young people of New York State may very well be forced to wait again.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union , “Many public schools across New York provide sex-ed curriculum that is inaccurate, incomplete, and stigmatizing.” Other schools provide nothing. Much of the current curriculum fails to include education on sexually transmitted disease and LGBTQ+ students are often stigmatized or ignored completely. However, New York does have mandated HIV education, which may seem like a good thing but, in reality, isn’t because it is not required to be medically accurate. This can end up being more harmful than helpful. For example, in a local Westchester middle school, the gym teacher assigned to teach about HIV told students they could contract it from sweat. Not since 1991, when Magic Johnson announced that he had contracted HIV, has such absolute unscientific mis-information been on such public display – and this was in an academic institution students are required to attend.
Sexuality education is an extremely important and valuable subject that should be mandated in all schools. Research done by the Public Library of Science shows “that when sex education is comprehensive, students feel more informed, make safer choices and have healthier outcomes — resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infection.” Having sexuality education taught in school gives students the ability to get clear concise answers to any questions they may have. Instead, they are forced to rely on the internet which can provide incorrect and confusing information, or parents who may be too self-conscious or ill-informed. A curriculum, which the teachers must follow, alleviates any discrepancies between medical facts and individual opinions. The Journal of Adolescent Health published research that found “that when sex education included information about contraception, teens had a lower risk of pregnancy than adolescents who received abstinence-only or no sex education.”
New York’s Senator Jen Metzger and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan have sponsored proposed legislation S4884/A6512 respectively which would make age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education required teaching in NYS schools. The bill would require “comprehensive sexuality instruction for students in grades K-12 which addresses age and developmentally appropriate physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions of human sexuality and reflects the national sexuality education standards.” The bill was introduced to the New York State Senate in March of 2019 and since then has been moved to the Education Committee. It has yet to be passed by the Senate or the Assembly. The success of this legislation rests not only on its passage but also on adequate funding for implementation. Unfortunately, 2020 may not be the year that students in New York State receive quality and informative sex ed.