Is New Sex-Education Course Too Much or Just Enough?

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Last summer, the Education Department decided that for the first time in nearly two decades, students in New York City’s public middle and high schools would 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. At
East Side High Community School, the school newspaper, The East Sider, wrote about the new course in its January issue, before the course had started. The article, below, has been lightly edited. What do you think about the new sex-education classes? Do you think they go too far? How are they being introduced in your school? Respond to our query below.

By Shaquana Reed
11th grade
The East Sider
East Side Community School

This school year, the city's Department of Education introduced a new required course for sexual education for grades 6-12 that was scheduled to begin in January. As news about the course spread, many objected to this change, claiming it’s exposing kids to too much information.

The new Sex Ed course is nothing like the old one, where it was all about abstinence and different sexually transmitted diseases. During the old sex-ed courses, junior Tania Dorado stated, “Some kids might have learned something new, but others may not.”

The new course discusses more steps students should take to protect themselves once they’ve already began having intercourse. Michelle Kreevoy, the guidance counselor for high school students at East Side, agrees with the changes being made. “I think it is better that sex-ed classes address other topics, especially sexually transmitted diseases which you can get from not just having sex,” he said.

The Department of Education did not mandate what curriculum each school must use, but has been recommending out-of-the-box sets of lessons by a group called HealthSmart since 2007. An article in The New York Post in October said the company offered lesson plans that include assignments that require students to compare condom prices at different stores, and learn how to put on a condom. The course even goes as far as to talk about masturbation and the different ways to do it.

But a spokeswoman for the Education Department said city officials worked with HealthSmart to make modifications to the curriculum so that it would be more appropriate for New York City students and meet D.O.E. policy.

Some parents argue that the information being provided is not something schools should have the right to teach and is exposing children to things too early, which can lead to even more confusion. The subjects will be taught to children as young as 11, and some worry, complaining that their children are too young for such topics.

The Department of Education argues that parents have the choice to opt their children out of these courses if they choose, but stands firm by their decision to offer these classes. An East Side junior argued, “Personally, I’m not sexually active or anything, but at least the Department of Education cares about the well-being of students.”

Complaints about these classes may drop when people learn of the alarming rate of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among New York City’s youth. Adam Klasfeld, a reporter for the Court House News, wrote about New York's high teen pregnancy rate.

“But the most recent long-term study of teen pregnancy, which draws from statistics between 1997 and 2007, shows that New York City’s rates have been higher than those of the rest of the country,” he wrote. This helps make the point of the many people who think the changes are warranted.

Here at East Side, parents seem to have little worry over sex being discussed around their children. According to Ms. Kreevoy: “We recently gave all 9th grade parents a letter talking about the condom availability program. Only one parent in the 9th grade requested that their child not receive condoms.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the change, this coming year students will be exposed to some new information. It’s up to you and your parents to decide if it’s just too much or just enough.