By Claire, Communications Intern
New York City recently ruled that it’s middle and high public school students will receive age-appropriate sex education rather than the abstinence-only education they had previously received. As one of the country’s largest cities and largest public school systems, what happens here may very well affect the policies of public school systems around the country.
The new mandate is part of Mayor Bloomberg plan to reach out to black and Latino/a youth who overwhelming are more affected by “early sexual activity and unprotected sex” than their white counterparts, according to Linda I. Gibbs, deputy mayor of health and human services. The new guidelines will go into effect in middle school and in high school using the HealthSmart and Reducing the Risks lesson plan systems. Many schools already use HealthSmart or use non-profits like Planned Parenthood and the Door to teach their classes.
North Carolina implemented the Healthy Youth Act this past school year that requires 7th through 9th graders in North Carolina public schools receive age-appropriate comprehensive sex education along with abstinence-until-marriage sex education. Parents are allowed to kept their child from either or both curriculum. North Carolina has the 9th highest teen pregnancy rate of the country.
No doubt there will be an anti-sex education backlash. The NY Times does not report on what exactly the schools will do for students whose parents have moral objections or if there is an opt-out policy in place yet. Regardless of backlash, we can ony hope this program will be successful for New York City. I am sure it will prove what sex education advocates have been saying all along: that teens will make the best decisions for themselves when they have all the facts and information. I predict that we will see a decrease in STI/HIV rates and a decrease in unintended pregnancy in New York City, and in North Carolina now that we have the Healthy Youth Act. And then maybe that will dispel the fears that some people have about telling teens about sex and contraception.
I’m so excited for this update from New York and hope that changes like this will make their way across the rest of the country!