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New York: Some Catholic Officials Urge Parents to Opt Out of Mandated Sex Education

August 11, 2011

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York on Wednesday called a new city policy requiring sex education in all public middle and high schools "troubling." Few other constituencies had immediate objections to the mandatory sex education lessons, which will cover abstinence, birth control, condom use, and other means of preventing STDs and pregnancy.


"Parents have the right and responsibility to be the first and primary educators of their children," Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the archdiocese, said in a statement. "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."

A lawyer for the archdiocese, Edward Mechmann, encouraged parents to use the opt-out clause exempting their children from contraception lessons. "I'd also insist that parents inspect the materials to make sure there's nothing really offensive or inaccurate being put in there."

The bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas A. DiMarzio, said he plans to mobilize Catholic parents citywide to "assert their parent rights on this issue." Some public schools that rent church space could have to find new sites at which to teach the courses.

Some parents suggested that high teen pregnancy rates and the number of youths with HIV make it harder to oppose the lessons on moral grounds.

In the 1990s, a Queens school district excised a number of sex-related topics from health classes. Under mayoral control, however, boards no longer have that prerogative.

"I think it is a good idea," Souleimane Konate, head imam of the Masjid Aqsa mosque in Harlem, said of the mandate. "I do talk about it sometimes, but people look at me like I'm crazy because the imams aren't supposed to talk about it. It's taboo in my community. But if somebody is doing it for me, I would support them 100 percent."

Back to other news for August 2011

Adapted from:
New York Times
08.11.2011; Anna M. Phillips

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
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