Teaching About Sex In Schools

For the first time in nearly two decades, students in New York City’s public middle and high schools will be required to take sex-education classes beginning this school year, using a curriculum that includes lessons on how to use a condom and the appropriate age for sexual activity.  According to city statistics, African-American and Latino teenagers teenagers are far more likely than their white counterparts to have unplanned pregnancies and contract sexually-transmitted diseases.

Nationwide, one in four teenagers between 2006 and 2008 learned about abstinence without receiving any instruction in schools about contraceptive methods, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. As of January, 20 states and the District of Columbia mandated sex and H.I.V. education in schools.

New York City’s new mandate goes beyond the state’s requirement that middle and high school students take one semester of health education classes. The city’s mandate calls for schools to teach a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and again in 9th or 10th grade.  At the same time, knowing that many teenagers are sexually active, the city administration wants to teach them about safe sex in the hopes of reducing pregnancy, disease and dropouts.

The new classes, which will be coeducational, could be incorporated into existing health education classes, so principals will not have to scramble to find additional instructional time. The classes would include a mix of lectures, perhaps using statistics to show that while middle school students might brag about having sex, not many of them actually do; group discussions about, for example, why teenagers are often resistant to condoms; and role-playing exercises that might include techniques to fend off unwanted advances.

High schools in New York have been distributing condoms for more than 20 years. In the new sex-education classes, teachers will describe how to use them, and why.

The statistics about increased sexual activity and unwanted pregnancies cannot be disputed.  However, isn’t this the realm of parents?  And if parents do not want to teach it, is this the responsibility of schools?  It seems that every time parents take a step back, schools are expected to take a step forward.  Parents used to be responsible for teaching their children about driving instruction, swimming, stopping drug and alcohol abuse, not smoking, etc.  It is now the school’s responsibility.  We do not have the training, or the time to take on additional responsibilities.  Nor with the added burden of additional budget cuts, do schools have the funding to pay for additional positions.