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New York City to again require sex education for older students

August 10, 2011 |  6:37 am

New York City sex education
After almost two decades, New York City has decided to again require sex education for all older students -- and the largest school system in the country will be teaching it gingerly.

In fact, school officials are approaching the topic so carefully that instructions to educators are to describe to high school students how to use a condom, but only show them if they ask, according to local news reports.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said parents have the right to request that their children skip lessons on birth control and any other part of the curriculum that makes them uncomfortable. This policy already applies to the schools' HIV-AIDS curriculum.

Walcott announced the requirement in an email to school principals Tuesday, noting that it will begin in the second semester of the upcoming school year. Middle and high school students will be required to have at least one semester of sex education as part of their health curriculum.

About two-thirds of middle schools and one-third of high schools already offer the recommended sex-education curriculum, a situation that Walcott told principals left New York with an "uneven system" that is unsatisfactory.

Under the curriculum, students, starting at age 11, are to get one semester of the basics, including an explanation of puberty and pregnancy prevention; high school students will learn about AIDS prevention and use of condoms. There are also lessons planned on how to resist sexual advances and avoid abusive relationships.

Walcott said this was valuable information so students "can learn to keep themselves safe before, and when, they decide to have sex."

Leonie Haimson, leader of an influential New York parents group, tweeted the news first reported in the New York Times, exclaiming, "NYC finally enters 20th c to require Sex Education this school yr. Will offer training to teachers; better start soon!"

The compulsory sex education is apparently part of a new $127-million citywide initiative aimed at improving the lives of young black and Latino men, announced last week by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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-- Geraldine Baum

Photo: Under New York City's new sex-education curriculum, students will be told how to use a condom, just not shown -- unless they ask. Here, a Planned Parenthood representative gets students' attention in Pasadena. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

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