Planned Parenthood hopes to expand sex ed conversation

Kati Garrity
Divest student activists opposed a presentation from ExxonMobil tax attorneys outside of Vanderbilt Hall

With Planned Parenthood supporters out in full force on Tuesday, The NYU School of Law hosted a discussion advocating for the expansion of sex education policies and the implementation of those policies in New York City schools. The Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund and The Reproductive Justice Clinic at the law school co-sponsored the event.

Support for Planned Parenthood was widespread across social media as part of “National Pink-Out Day” to protest federal funding cuts for the organization and facilitate conversation surrounding sex education in the U.S.

Panelists on Tuesday night included associates of Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood of New York City, while Katharine Bodde of the New York Civil Liberties Union moderated the event.

The night began with a discussion of comprehensive sex education and what this should look like in public schools. Lazara Paz-Gonzales of the Hetrick-Martin Institute commented on the major problem with sex-ed in schools today.

“Sex-ed is a binary of ‘not getting pregnant’ and ‘getting pregnant’ and that’s all that you get,” Paz-Gonzales said. “We should be talking about sexuality, pleasure and gender identity too.”

Louise Marchena of Planned Parenthood of New York City added that the problem with this binary education is that young people are left with questions that often lead them to Google, a pattern she observed among middle and high school students.

“The first resource for young people without sex-ed is the Internet because they can ask the question without anyone knowing,” Marchena said.

However, fellow panel member Miaja Jawara, who attends Philip Randolph High School in the Bronx, is trying to change this. Jawara and fellow youth group members helped to develop the campaign, #EnforceTheMandate to push for more comprehensive sex education in schools.

“Sex ed is mandated in New York City, but it isn’t really enforced,” Jawara said. “Teaching about consent is recommended but not required.”

Planned Parenthood associate Pearl Brady addressed this issue when speaking about how topics discussed in the panel could relate to NYU students and college students nationally.

“It’s all about engaging people who think that sex ed happens and in a lot of places it doesn’t,” Brady said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The event was planned entirely by a group of volunteer sex ed activists. The sex ed group conducts literacy events for sex education in schools and abortion and is open to the public for volunteers.

Sex ed teachers and Planned Parenthood advocates were not the only attendees of Tuesday’s event. Many New York City college students came to listen to what he panel had to say, and Eliot Hagerty, a sophomore at the New School, said he was pleased with the informative discussion.

“I wish that my school had something of this sort that opened discussion about this and allowed students to get involved in a level outside school,” Hagerty said.

NYU alumna Siobhan Vega was encouraged by the broad representation of race and identity in the panel.

“I thought that it was really informative and well done,” Vega said. “It was nice to hear them talk about sex ed in terms of transgender people and people of color.”

Ultimately, Marchena urged attendees to make the issues surrounding sex ed more aware to the public.

“If we can make a concept or a meme go viral, why can’t we make a topic like sex ed go viral?” Marchena asked.

Email Kati Garrity at [email protected]

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled Ms. Jawara’s first name.

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