August 11, 2011
By the second semester of this school year, public middle and high schools in New York City are required to begin sex education classes. The new policy, announced Tuesday, is part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg administration's three-year, $130 million initiative to improve the lives of young minority men. City statistics show black and Latino teens are much more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and STDs than their white peers.
Since 1987, the state has mandated an HIV/AIDS curriculum that must be taught in at least five class sessions per year in every school, from kindergarten to 12th grade. Sex education classes, however, have not been required in the city for almost two decades.
The new city policy requires a semester of sex education in sixth or seventh grade, and again in ninth or 10th grade. Suggested curricula include "HealthSmart" and "Reducing the Risk," both of which have been recommended since 2007. A city survey of principals found 64 percent reported use of HealthSmart in middle schools.
City high schools have been distributing condoms for more than 20 years. In the new classes, teachers will describe how to use them, and why.
Toward the goal of delaying sexual activity, students will be taught about anatomy, puberty, pregnancy, and the risks of unprotected sex. Lessons also will provide information about reducing the risks of STDs, pregnancy and dropping out of school. Parents will retain the right to exempt their children from the lessons on birth control.
It will be left to the schools to decide how to design the lessons, which will be co-educational and integrated into existing health education classes. The city's Department of Education will offer training sessions before the academic year begins on Sept. 8.