NY Advocates, Lawmakers Lobby for Comprehensive Sex Education

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
April 22, 2021 1:15 pm

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

NEW YORKToday advocates for sexual and intimate partner violence prevention, LGBTQI rights, and reproductive health; lawmakers; students; educators; and parents gathered for a digital rally in support of a bill to require comprehensive sex education for K-12 public and charter school students in New York, S.2584A(Brouk)/A.6616 (Nolan).

Currently there is no requirement for sex education in New York schools, and many schools do not teach it at all. Many public schools across New York provide sex ed curricula that are inaccurate, incomplete, and stigmatizing. Curricula in New York often do little to educate students on sexually transmitted infections. LGBTQ students are often stigmatized or ignored entirely. Even basic information on anatomy is inaccurate and lessons often reinforce negative gender stereotypes.

The current state of sex education in New York leads to poor health and educational outcomes for young people. Comprehensive sex ed offers young people the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy relationships and avoid both victimization and perpetrating intimate partner violence. It helps delay the onset of sexual activity and, when teens do become sexually active, leads to more consistent condom use and fewer risky sexual behaviors. It also helps to promote LGBTQI-inclusive school communities and reduce bullying and harassment.

S.2584A/A.6616 requires the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, to create a CSE program that includes a model curriculum to ensure easier implementation for districts and resources for teachers to support implementation. Districts and schools maintain flexibility to teach the sex ed curriculum that is right for their student population so long as it meets the standards set forth by the Commissioner.

Advocates and participants offer the following quotes in support of the bill:

“Comprehensive sexuality education is foundational learning for all young people and equips them to make the healthiest decisions they can. It is appalling that New York doesn’t yet require mandatory comprehensive sex education. If we are serious about preventing sexual harassment and assault, reducing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and about raising our young people to treat everyone with respect, then we must pass S.2584A/A.6616 immediately. It is vital that students are receiving age appropriate, medically accurate, scientifically based sex education in every year of their schooling, K-12. Like any other subject, sex education requires a building-block approach — starting to offer it in middle or high school is like teaching starting calculus without first teaching basic math.” said Danielle Castaldi-Micca, Vice President of Political and Government Affairs at the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund.

“Comprehensive sex education is a vital tool in preventing sexual violence. The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is dedicated to breaking down harmful gender stereotypes that can often lead to unsafe environments in which sexual violence persists. By teaching students at an early age, the importance of respect, consent, and body autonomy, we can empower our young people to engage in healthy relationships and prevent violence from the start,” said Rachel Geller, Director of Prevention & Policy at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.

“Comprehensive sex education has the power to transform lives by giving students the tools to navigate their health and relationships. At Planned Parenthood, we know that when young people are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to understand their bodies they can make informed and healthy decisions about sex and relationships. Young people must have the right to access accurate and complete information that can help them protect themselves and plan for their future. From setting boundaries, bullying, and consent, to STI prevention, contraception, and making healthy decisions – it’s time for New York to set a standard for sex education that centers around our youth’s needs,” said Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.

“Sex ed is about so much more than preventing STIs and unintended pregnancy. Sex ed is the only tool we have to prevent sexual violence before it occurs by teaching healthly relationships and dismantling the stereotyped gender roles that perpetuate a culture of sexual violence. It is also vital to developing inclusive school communities. By destigmitizing discussions of sexuality and gender and by showing diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, comprehensive sex ed shows LGBTQI youth that they are not alone, and it shows their straight, cisgender classmates that they exist. Our young people deserve medically accurate, age-appropriate, and inclusive sexuality education across all grades.” said Allie Bohm, policy counsel at the NYCLU.

“Relationships play a key part in every child or young person’s wellbeing. Healthy relationships can help a child feel secure and supported, but unhealthy relationships can have a long-lasting negative impact. This legislation will ensure that all of New York’s young people will understand how to build healthy relationships, and how to respond should a relationship become unhealthy. We urge the Legislature to approve this legislation, which will move us significantly forward toward building a future without violence,” said Connie Neal, Executive Director, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

“Our grassroots group includes parents, educators, public health professionals, and others committed to reproductive and gender equity. Our members see comprehensive sex ed as a priority because we believe everyone has the right to lead a full, safe, healthy, and stigma-free life. Comprehensive sex ed is proven to reduce sexual assault and violence; unintended pregnancy; sexually transmitted infections; and bullying and harassment, particularly towards LGBTQIA+ youth who are already among the most vulnerable in our community. New York owes it to our young people to provide medically accurate, inclusive, K-12 comprehensive sex ed across the state,” said Karen Wang, co-chair of WHARR (Womxn’s Health and Reproductive Rights.)

“Comprehensive sexuality education that is medically accurate, inclusive, culturally and linguistically responsive, trauma-informed, evidence based and age appropriate would be beneficial to students across the state. Comprehensive sexuality education curricula will help educate students about bodily autonomy, healthy relationships, respect, empathy, boundaries and consent. Research has shown that comprehensive sexuality education has positive effects, including increasing the overall health and well-being of young people. Furthermore, another benefit of comprehensive sexuality education is that it can lead to reduced rates of sexual violence and intimate partner violence. In addition to that, comprehensive sexuality education has been shown to help decrease rates of sexually transmitted infections. Providing young people with the tools and skills they need to engage in healthy relationships, set healthy boundaries and understand and practice consent is integral to their health and well-being,” said Selena Bennett-Chambers, Policy Director at the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“There’s clear evidence that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) can protect young people from sexual violence. Our research shows that women in one survey who’d had CSE before college were half as likely to be raped in college. Essentially, there’s a vaccine that can reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted. It’s urgent to ensure that all young people in the state have access to that protection,” said Jennifer S. Hirsch, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“We need comprehensive sexual health education to help close the unacceptable gaps in information faced by our young people in New York State today. Comprehensive sexual health education can improve a young person’s emotional and physical health. In addition to offering age-appropriate medical information, inclusive and affirming sex ed will empower the LGBTQ youth we serve at Callen-Lorde and all young people. It will go a long way toward creating a culture of consent, preventing bullying and harassment and ultimately improving health outcomes for our kids. I think that’s something we should all get behind,” said Kimberleigh Joy Smith, Senior Director for Community Health Planning and Policy at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.

“Sex education is violence prevention. By teaching young people things like how to establish boundaries; how to form healthy and respectful friendships; what dating, domestic, and sexual violence are; what technology abuse is; what consent looks like; and how to help yourself or someone you know if they’re in an abusive situation, we can help reduce the prevlance of intimate partner violence and empower young people to have healthy relationships. Day One’s ERAPP and RAPP programs work with New York City middle and high-school students to provide critical teen dating violence prevention and intervention. Our social services team offers young folks trauma informed counseling, while our legal team advocates for and represents young people who are survivors of dating, domestic, and sexual violence. Many clients have told us that they wish they learned about healthy relationships, how to identify warning signs of unhealthy ones—like forced password and location sharing–, and how to get help while they were in school. Age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive, LGBTQIA-inclusive sex education is something that all young New Yorkers deserve,” said Lisa Alexander, Senior Staff Attorney at Day One.

“The New York State Council on Adolescent Pregnancy supports statewide implementation of Pre-K – 12 Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and promotes a school CSE model that includes six high quality, best practice components: 1) policy, 2) parent and family engagement, 3) community involvement, 4) age appropriate, medically accurate pre-K through 12th grade curriculum, instruction and assessment, 5) professional development for adults, and 6) implementation, monitoring, and sustainability of a CSE program within comprehensive health education. NYSCAP members work to raise awareness about adolescent pregnancy related issues and advocate for programs to promote comprehensive sexuality education, teen pregnancy prevention and support services for pregnant and parenting teens. We believe that all youth are entitled to certain rights and a range of conditions and opportunities that will enable them to grow up in the healthiest way and to become thoughtful, caring, self sufficient adults,” said The New York State Council on Adolescent Pregnancy.

“Education is the first line of defense against ignorance. It is imperative that we not only make sure all middle schools and high schools across New York State teach sex education in general but that the information and resources provided are comprehensive. This uplifts students and youth of our most marginalized communities and therefore uplifts all. The evidence-driven, fact-based sex education S.2584/A.6616 would bring must become law,” said Max Micallef, Public Policy Coordinator with GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley.

“Legislators must take every opportunity available to address the alarming increase of gender-based violence and harassment in our state. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is an instrument for culture change and a tool to reduce rates of intimate partner violence, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual violence, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. Providing young people with the tools they need to make healthy decisions about their bodies and relationships is integral to their health and well-being and to creating safer environments in the future,” said Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York.

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.