2011-08-12 / Top Stories

City Issues New Sex-Ed Requirements

By Daniel Solomon

On Tuesday, the Bloomberg administration announced plans to require a semester of sex education in the city’s public middle schools and high schools. The new policy, first reported by the New York Times and unveiled to principals in an email from the Department of Education’s chancellor, Dennis Walcott, comes in addition to state-mandated HIV education.

These courses, which will be taken in middle school in either the sixth or seventh grade and in high school during the ninth or tenth grade, will include information on the use of condoms and other contraceptives, the appropriate age for sexual activity, and how to avoid the contraction of venereal diseases.

Though sex education will be targeted at all students, it is part of a broader initiative by the mayor to boost the status of young black and Latino men. That program, announced last week, will pay out $130 million in private and public money over three years to fight poverty and recidivism in the projects and set minorities on a better course in life by reaching them at an early age at home and in the school system. For all the fanfare, though, it is unclear how the city’s requirement will be implemented. When The Wave reached the DOE’s press office for comment, a spokeswoman told the paper that “the department will be flexible in how [it] works with principals to bring this into the classrooms.”

Some schools already make their pupils spend a semester in health and it still remains to be seen whether those existing courses suffice or whether another five months of sex education will have to be added to the curriculum.

There’s also a chance that there could be a backlash against the new policy, especially in religious immigrant communities. Mothers and fathers have the right to opt their children out of discussions about birth control, which the city hopes is enough to placate parents.

A similar plan was nixed in the 1980s because of the objections of school board members and the devout, a result that Bloomberg does not want to see repeated.

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