The New York Civil Liberties Union supports the Department of Education’s adoption of HealthSmart and Reducing the Risk, new evidence-based health curricula for middle and high school students, and urges city officials to require age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education at all grade levels.
“New York City has taken an important step toward giving teens the information they need to make healthy choices,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Without comprehensive sex ed, teens receive partial information, or information driven by ideology rather than public health, when they receive any information at all"
For the first time during the Bloomberg administration, the Department of Education (DOE) is taking concrete steps toward comprehensive sex education. DOE announced Thursday the formation of an Office of Fitness and Health Education supported by both the DOE and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This announcement comes at a time when nearly half of the city’s youth say that they have had sex (41 percent of ninth graders and 58 percent of 12th graders). The city also has the highest rates of HIV and AIDS infection in the United States.
“We applaud DOE’s commitment to improving the health of young people,” said Galen Sherwin, director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project. “The new curricula makes comprehensive sex ed available, but the DOE needs to go further and set minimum standards for sex ed in schools.”
There is a consensus among public health experts and the public that comprehensive sex education is essential for providing teens with the tools to grow into healthy adults. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers (77 percent) support comprehensive sex ed in school.
“The health of New York City students is too important to leave to the discretion of individual principals,” said LeeChe Leong, director of the NYCLU’s Teen Health Initiative. “The city must act quickly to put in place a comprehensive plan for implementation, teacher training and evaluation.”