MANHATTAN (CN) – Sexual education will be mandatory for middle school and high school students in New York City come September, the city’s education department announced Wednesday, reacting to soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said New York City has the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the country.
Sex-education classes have not been mandatory in the city for nearly two decades, according to some media reports.
But the most recent long-term study of teen pregnancy, which draws from statistics between 1997 and 2007, shows that New York City’s rates have been higher than those of the rest of the country.
In 2005, the latest year available for U.S. pregnancy figures, the NYC rate was 21 percent higher than the national rate.
According to 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, 41 percent of New York City youth reported becoming sexually active by ninth grade and 58 percent by 12th grade.
For more than 20 years, the state mandated AIDS education and distributed condoms, without requiring that students learn how put one on, The New York Times reported.
The NYCLU applauded the new mandate, which follows a spring 2008 pilot program in seven South Bronx middle schools and high schools. An evaluation of the program showed that teachers, principals, parents and students widely supported it.
“With this welcome decision, the Department of Education finally demonstrates that it recognizes the importance of providing students the information they need to make healthy choices about sex,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “The DOE must follow through on this important step by ensuring that the sex ed that is actually taught is accurate, effective and respectful of all students, and teachers must be trained to effectively engage students about sexual health.”