Last week, a report released by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that sexual education in the state’s public schools lacked overarching standards regarding how matters of sexual health are taught.
The report found that information being taught in the state’s public high schools about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases was out of date and inaccurate. First, LGBTQ issues were not covered at all. Second, a New York high school student said he was never shown how to use a condom, only told. According to the report, only two-thirds of schools that taught students about condoms actually demostrated how to use them. Teachers who were not given a comprehensive curriculum to teach had to independently search for information online.
The NYCLU urged the state’s Education Department to update its current program and apply more rigorous regulations to the curriculum. The adoption of these standards is a necessary part of a more well-rounded health education within the public school system.
According to Johanna Miller, the report’s author, New York’s teen pregnancy rate is now the 11th highest in the nation. A shift to evidence-based information will be one of the most effective steps in reducing unplanned pregnancies. Abstinence-only education has proven to be inadequate, which is not surprising since it is estimated that over 40 percent of New York’s high school students are sexually active.
We should expect our students to be supplied with as comprehensive a curriculum as necessary to live an informed, healthy life. This approach should place no limit on the choices they make, nor weigh the morals of said choices. Without a formative education on matters ranging from HIV and AIDS to LGBTQ issues to abstinence and safe sex, we can not expect our students to fully understand the risks and consequences.
Other approaches are being championed here on campus. The Peer Health Exchange, an undergraduate club at NYU and other universities in the city, place college students in the classroom to teach the material. Further promotion of volunteer club programs like the Peer Health Exchange could foster better knowledge of sexual matters among our state’s high school students.
If a homogenized sexual education curriculum is implemented statewide, our students and the community as a whole will reap the benefits.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 20 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at email@example.com.