Despite the wave of backlash from conservative religious groups and school board members, NYC public middle and high schools will be required to teach sex education classes this year for the first time in nearly twenty years. The recommended lesson plans, HealthSmart for middle school and Reduce the Risk for high school, are specifically intended to lower the risk of unwanted pregnancy in Black and Latino communities, as an extension of Mayor Michael Bloomerg’s Young Men’s Initiative. The three-year nearly $130 million initiative was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in early August in recognition of the overwhelmingly higher risk of poverty and incarceration for black and Latino men compared to white men in the city. The mandated sex education curriculum seems a critical aspect of the initiative, considering that young Latino men living in New York City between 16-24 years old are 2.5 times more likely to father a child than their white peers.
Religious leaders like Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, believe the curriculum is intended to “directly counter abstinence-based education.” However the mandate will provide lessons in anatomy, puberty, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and abstinence for a semester in middle school (6th or 7th grade) and a semester in high school (9th or 10th grade). Considering the amount of sexually active youth ill-equipped with knowledge or contraceptives, this is a necessary step on the part of our city government. It is important that young people are honestly spoken to about sex, before they begin experimenting. The fact is, sex is as much a part of life as birth or death. Ignoring its existence or using scare tactics to dissuade young people from engaging is more harmful than helpful. Ultimately, the decision is up to the individual and the best preparation an adult (parent, guardian or teacher) can provide is information. And for those who refuse to acknowledge reality or their own sexual awakening, there is the option for parents to remove their children from the classes. To them… good luck!
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