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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: New Sex Education Mandate Taking Effect
Yasmeen Khan
February 2, 2012
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 10th grade.

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.