Quick hit: the problem with New York City’s new mandated sex ed programs

Earlier this week, we wrote about the announcement of a mandatory sex ed program in New York City public schools. Mayor Bloomberg’s new law require that comprehensive (which is to say, not abstinence-only), and will be taught in all NYC public high schools and middle schools. This is great news!

However, Anna Lekas Miller at The Nation sees a problem, and it’s one of enforcement and accountability. Namely, there’s no way to check if schools are actually teaching the new sex ed program and, given the current rash of budget cuts in public schools, sex ed will probably be one of the first things to get cut. Lekas Miller writes:

On the surface, Bloomberg’s sex education mandate seems to have it all —teacher training, age-appropriate advice on decision-making and sexual health, as well as essential information on accessing and using contraceptives. However, there is one essential element missing: a program monitoring system, i.e accountability.

In 1982, New Jersey became one of the first states to adopt a statewide mandate for comprehensive sexuality and HIV education. Every public high school is required to provide unbiased information on sexual health and disease prevention, making New Jersey a model for progressive sexuality education. However, in 2005, Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, now the executive director of the Rutgers University-based organization Answer, did an independent research project examining how high schools in New Jersey were teaching sexuality education, given the mandate. She was stunned at the number of schools that claimed not to teach sex ed —the mandate notwithstanding. Some schools lacked the funding to teach and promote “extraneous” sexuality education programs. Other programs were eliminated due to a vocal parent or school board member who complained until the program was shutdown.

Regardless of how the classes were evaded, New Jersey’s experience shows that a “mandate” is largely meaningless for enforcing sex education in the classroom in the absence of any additional accountability.

Lekas Miller hopes that New York can do better than New Jersey did in adhering to the mandated comprehensive sex ed programs (incidentally, the story that Lori told in her post earlier this week, about a sex ed class in which a post-sexual intercourse body was compared to a glass full of backwashed water, took place in New Jersey, well after that state’s public schools had a mandate to teach comprehensive sex ed! So, yeah, I’m hoping that New York can do better than New Jersey did, too).

Go read the whole thing here.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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