Sex Education is NOT mandated in New York.
That’s correct. You probably didn’t realize that sex education is not actually a required component of health education in New York State. In fact, in 2017, only 37.9% of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, and 80.1% of high schoolers were taught about all sixteen critical sexual education topics (as identified by the CDC). Sed-ex became a requirement in New York City schools in 2011, but there are no regulated curriculums.
Sex-ed matters. Here’s why:
Sex-ed helps prepare young people to not only have safe sex and prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, but it also prepares them to have healthier relationships, to make informed choices about whether or when to engage in sex, to understand and practice affirmative consent, to identify abusive behavior, to prevent dating violence, and to gain a strong sense of bodily and emotional autonomy. By failing to fund and require a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum, we are depriving students of the tools they need to live healthier and happier lives.
Abstinence-only programs are popular nationwide, but they don’t work.
Research has shown that abstinence only sex-ed doesn’t work. However, in 2017, a third of federal funding for sex-ed in high schools went to abstinence-only education. A 2018 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found these key ways that abstinence-only programs are ineffective:
- Teens enrolled in abstinence-only programs are not more likely to abstain from sex
- Teens who learn about contraceptives in their sex ed were 50% less likely to get pregnant
- Students who are taught abstinence-only sex-ed are no more likely to engage in unprotected sex
Comprehensive sex-ed reflects positive student outcomes.
When students are taught about sex in a wholistic and inclusive way, they can make smarter decisions. A cumulative study by The Future of Sex Education found that these programs overall improve student outcomes:
- 60 percent of comprehensive sex-ed programs have been shown to reduce unprotected sex
- Over half showed declines in teen STIs and pregnancy
- 40 percent increased condom or contraceptive use
New York’s sex-ed is lacking. We must do better.
Here’s where we stand now. The sex-ed that is being taught in New York’s public schools is lacking; a NYCLU report found these examples of how:
- Two-thirds of districts exclude any mention or depiction of external female genitalia from anatomy lessons. One district defined the vagina as a “sperm deposit.”
- Much of the literature or messaging is shame based and includes “moral overtones”
- Over half of school districts did not speak at all about sexual orientation
- Only 42% of districts taught about sexual harassment, with only 28% teaching about sexual assault or rape
These incomplete programs are having negative statewide effects on the health and wellbeing of New York’s students.
- New York has a higher teen pregnancy rate than the national average, coupled with the highest teen abortion rate in the country
- Individuals ages 15-19 represent more than 50% of new STI cases in New York State
- NYC has some of the “highest rates of intimate partner violence in the country:” 12% of NYC students reported experiencing it in the past 12 months, compared to the national average of 9.6%.
- A 2017 survey found that 50% of NY high school students have engaged in sexual intercourse, only 11% have used a pregnancy/STI prevention method
These statistics are proof: we must do more to provide students with comprehensive sex-ed. A 2017 report showed that 96% of surveyed parents think it is important to have sex ed in high school, and 93.5% thought it was important to have these curriculums in middle schools. A later survey revealed that 98% of likely voters think it is important to have sex-ed in high schools. These statistics show that this is an issue with wide support. This is why NOW NYC signed on to a letter alongside sexual violence prevention, reproductive health, LGBTQ, and civil rights advocates and health care providers, to advocate for S.2584-A/A.6616.
Download a copy of the memo of support here!