New York City Mandates Comprehensive Sex Education


After nearly twenty years with no required sex education curriculum, New York City’s public schools will obligate students to take sex education classes, which will provide instruction on how to put on a condom, as well as informing students of the appropriate age for sexual activity.  The new requirements are part of a larger effort to improve the lives of black and Latino youth, whom the Bloomberg administration says are disproportionately affected by the current “patchwork” system of programs.

According to the New York Times, “City officials said that while there would be frank discussions with students as young as 11 on topics like anatomy, puberty, pregnancy and the risks of unprotected sex, the focus was to get students to wait until they were older to experiment. At the same time, knowing that many teenagers are sexually active, the administration wants to teach them about safe sex in the hopes of reducing pregnancy, disease and dropouts.”

In a letter to school principals, Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote that the current “uneven system…does not serve our students well.  We must be committed,” he continued, “to ensuring that both middle school and high school students are exposed to this valuable information so they can learn to keep themselves safe before, and when, they decide to have sex.”

However, parents will be able to opt their children out of the classes on birth control methods.

The Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which has been quite outspoken of late on the issue of same-sex marriage, condemned the move.  ”Parents have the right and the responsibility to be the first and primary educators of their children,” Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the archdiocese, wrote. “This mandate by the city usurps that role, and allows the public school system to substitute its beliefs and values for those of the parents.”

Except — many parents aren’t educating their children about sex.  And, as the New York Times editorial board points out, teenagers are having sex at younger and younger ages. NYT blog is soliciting comments from students 13 and older about the ways that they learned about sex, and some of the responses are frankly disturbing.  One student writes:

“The vast majority of my knowledge of sex (safe sex, sexual manners, orientations, what is acceptable and unacceptable, etc) came from the websites I ventured to when I got curious. However, it was a long time before I found credible sources of information instead of learning ‘acceptable’ behavior from pornography.”

Surely it’s better to have students taught about sex in the classroom by someone who accepts the possibility that students might not want to stay abstinent until marriage, and prepares them to make safe, responsible sexual decisions.  Given the rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancy among New York City’s teens, it’s heartening to see that the responsibility for comprehensive sex education is finally being placed with the schools.

Related Stories:

Teen Pregnancy is “Contagious,” Study Says

At-Risk Youth Get Sex Ed and Abstinence Message With Affordable Care Act

HHS Adopts Recommendations for Birth Control Coverage

Photo from Victoria Peckham via flickr.


LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan5 years ago

I see nothing wrong with it. It should be taught in all schools

Sylvia M.
Sylvia M.5 years ago

I was surprised, as an adult, to learn that sex-ed in schools was even an issue. I'm not sure when it became an issue, but I attended public school in New York State in the 60's and 70's and it was just an unquestioned part of health, science and biology classes. There was no issue! It's frustrating to me, therefore, to see some of the attitudes in schools across the country. It seems counterproductive to insist on teachings such as abstinence. So, if NYC now has an "official" policy of what they have probably been doing all along-I say great. Knowledge is power-power to avoid teen pregnancy, STDs, tumor detection, etc. Of course, the Empire State leads again, as I found all throughout my youth, very matter of factly, without huge fanfare, and just acknowledging the facts that won't go away despite one's morality.

Flannel Disaster
Flannel Disaster5 years ago

Bah.. southern Oregon was so far ahead of the great New York City on such matters.

Flannel Disaster
Flannel Disaster5 years ago

Pretty much agree, Tony.
Sexuality awareness or whatever as well as sex ed should be taught from a young age and adjusted age-appropriately throughout.
Many parents aren't even teaching their kids the basics, much less anything else.
My own parents never talked to me once about sex, or sexuality, or anything else of the sort.
Granted, I learned some relationship and communication stuff indirectly by observing them, but most of that wasn't very helpful.
Anyway, we had sex ed in elementary school starting when I was 10, I believe, which would have been 5th grade, and this was around 1980, so kids weren't generally as active as early or hitting puberty as early as now.
But I can remember many of them already bragging about French kissing and more the year before and you could often find some making out and at least trying other things up in the "fort" on the playground when the monitors weren't around, so it seems obvious that kids should already be learning about consequences and stuff by that point, not just starting "as young as 11", as that's already too late.
Of course, we had more sex ed again in junior high (7th & 8th), and more in high school as well, as part of required health classes, as reminders and with added detail and complexity.
More on the psychological/emotional aspects would definitely have been good, but it certainly wasn't just a "how-to" biology course.
I was, frankly, shocked and amazed to hear that my fairly redneck little town in southern O

Tom Y.
Tom Y.5 years ago

What teens need is an ongoing message that counters the sexually permissive attitudes of the sexual revolution, and it must be rooted in Respect for Others -- the same message to counter bullying can be used to encourage the delay of sexual onset. Teens are trying to figure out who they are as persons, and that process typically takes several years. Once they have a better handle on that, they'll be in a place to make more adult decisions... because they'll be adults! Until then, parents and schools need to communicate an expectation of behavioral self-control. Yes, we'll talk about sex. But we stress sex as an integral part of deep emotional, personal, and relational territory that excludes the option of casual recreation.

Delaying sexual onset won't hurt teens; it'll help protect their self-images and emotions at a very vulnerable time. Adult behavior needs an adult's comprehension and an adult's expectations. Mastering a condom-roll onto a banana just isn't the same. If that's the best NYC's got, it isn't nearly enough.

Tony C.
Tony C.5 years ago

A class in RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY should be taught from Grade one to graduation, children should be taught that anything is permissible as long as it does not hurt themselves or anybody else. Common sense would dictate that if children are taught at a very early age that every child has their own strengths and weaknesses and that they should use their strengths to help not tease or bully others.
Later on Sex Education should be taught from Contraceptives, Masturbation,LGBT and all forms of sex. Let us face it whether we like it or not children are curious and are having sex earlier and earlier. They should be taught the joys and the consequences of having sex ( Pregnancy,STD, AIDS ) But you say when will this be taught. Cut out Geography or History early on then put it back in and remove Geometry and Algebra. They can learn this in college if need be. I believe this is a solution. Nipping it in the Bud so that Bullying, Sexual Assault, and many others will be greatly diminished if not eradicated. It is my belief that when children graduate with these principals where they are taught RESPECT for themselves and others and to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. Within a few generations this world would be a much better place to live in.

Barbara S.

Well, it about time! If anyone who thinks sex is not as potent a drug as anything else you can get on the street, then either you've never had good sex, or you're so anti-sex, you think NOT knowing about it will keep the kids safe. Raging hormones, not enough hugs from family, families that fight more than they talk, and all the other kids talking about it on their phones, are just some of the problems with not knowing how it works, why it works, and why some kids think it's no different than a hand-shake. All of this has been true for 50 years, except for the phone texts and TV programs. And now these kids have computers with pop-up ads for sexual stimulation drugs & tools - aimed (allegedly) at adults - but the kids are seeing them anyway, EVERYWHERE. Sometimes parents are too squeemish to discuss sex the way it should be with their kids. "Just say no" never worked with other drugs, and it doesn't work with kids' raging hormones and the peer pressures to which parents don't have a clue. EDUCATE THEM from both sides of the brain, and we'll have far less unwanted pregnancies and much needed abortions; our kids will be physically and spiritually happier for it.