Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
'Glaring Inaccuracies' Found in State Sex Ed Teachings: Report
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
There are "troubling and profound gaps" in how New York state school districts teach sex education, according to a new report by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The group surveyed sex ed materials from 82 districts in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. It found some districts don't give scientifically and medically complete information. For example, 80 percent of districts taught students about condoms, but only one-third of those taught kids how to use condoms correctly.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said there were also some glaring inaccuracies.
"One inaccuracy is that an HIV/AIDS diagnosis is an automatic death sentence," she said, referring to a handout that showed an arrow pointing to a headstone. "Another inaccuracy is that fertilization happens as soon as people have sexual intercourse."
The report did not include New York City, which adopted a new sex-education mandate last year for its public schools.
Several materials were considered biased by the NYCLU, such as textbooks that encouraged abstinence-only, and handouts that gave information about the external genitalia of men but not women. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning students are "largely stigmatized or ignored" according to the report.
The civil liberties union is calling on the state to mandate sex education standards. Current guidelines address sexual health but they're not binding on school districts.
"We'll carefully review the report and its recommendations. Our goal is to make sure students get accurate, sound health information," said Dennis Tompkins, external affairs chief for the New York State Department of Education.