New York Times (01.30.12) - Thursday, February 02, 2012
Mandatory sexual health lessons in New York City schools
announced in August take effect this spring term, which for
high school students began on Jan. 31. The lessons will be
folded into existing health classes, which the state requires
in either sixth or seventh grade and again in either ninth or
The city Department of Education does not mandate certain
curricula; however, it suggests "HealthSmart" for middle
school, and "HealthSmart" plus "Reducing the Risk" for high
school. The department tailored the versions for New York City
in order to avoid duplicating lessons on HIV, which the state
already requires for K-12 students.
City education officials offer guidelines on topics that would
include, depending on the grade: physiology and understanding
male and female reproductive systems; recognizing healthy and
unhealthy relationships; sexuality and sexual identity;
handling unwanted advances; the benefits of abstinence; birth
control methods; and preventing STDs.
Teachers should welcome questions and "demonstrate openness
and acceptance" in words, tone, and facial expressions, the
"HealthSmart" teacher's manual suggests for the sexuality
unit. Teachers may talk about correct condom use, but its
demonstration is allowed only in health resource rooms in high
schools. Lessons are intended to be co-ed.
Parents can opt their child out of lessons on birth control
and preventing STDs, but not abstinence or sexual health
lessons. Health classes must be taught by a licensed health
teacher, and the department's Office of School Wellness
Programs is providing free training for the recommended
curricula to teachers and administrators.