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Sex Ed In NYS: Inaccurate, Incomplete & Biased

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Many public school districts across New York State provide sex-ed instruction that is inaccurate, incomplete and biased according to a report released this week by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). The report analyzes sex-ed materials, including HIV education, that have been used in 82 public school districts. HIV Law Project assisted with analysis and writing on HIV education to the report.

Sex Ed In NYS: Inaccurate, Incomplete & Biased
Read the full report NYCLU Study Shows Gaps, Inaccuracies and Bias in NY Sex Ed Instruction >>

“Our study shows that the lack of binding statewide sex-ed standards is compromising the health and well-being of our young people,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Every day in public schools across the state, students receive sex-ed instruction that leaves them unprepared to make healthy, informed choices about sex. New York must reverse this failure and ensuring that our schools provide comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate and bias-free sex ed.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • HIV instruction, required by state law since 1987, is the most consistently robust element of sex education in New York State; 93 percent of districts provided instruction about HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted, but only 56 percent offered complete and scientifically accurate information.
  • Moral overtones and shame-based messages regarding sexuality, abstinence, pregnancy and teen parenting strongly pervade instructional materials in all districts – and textbooks in wide use across New York State. These materials, unlike medically-accurate, opinion-neutral information, risk alienating students from otherwise valuable prevention lessons.
  • Many students do not learn the full range of methods for preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Too few school districts provide students with information about how to access local health resources or their right to confidential reproductive and sexual health care. For example, while 80 percent of the districts we studied taught students about condoms, only about 1-in-3 actually taught students how to use them.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students are largely stigmatized or ignored entirely in health education classrooms. For example, more than half the school districts did not provide any instruction about sexual orientation.

“While we found that nearly all districts taught something about HIV, we saw significant room for improvement,” said HIV Law Project Supervising Attorney for HIV Policy, Alison Yager, a co-author of the report. “That said, the state AIDS education mandate has clearly forced schools to include HIV/AIDS education in their curricula. One lesson learned is that state regulations ensuring that comprehensive medically accurate, age-appropriate and bias-free sex education is taught to all of our students would go a long way to improving the consistency, and in many cases the quality of sex ed in New York.”

Read more and see the full report "NYCLU Study Shows Gaps, Inaccuracies and Bias in NY Sex Ed Instruction."

See some of the great coverage of the report: