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NYC: Sex Ed, STDs and OWS

NYC: Sex Ed, STDs and OWS
By: Brenda Zurita - 11/3/2011

Two stories in New York in recent weeks bring together Occupy Wall Street (OWS), STDs and sex ed. Is this going to be cringe worthy? You betcha!

We begin with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his new sex education program in city middle and high schools, commencing next year. According to the New York Times, Mayor Bloomberg’s mandatory plan goes beyond the New York state requirement that students receive one semester of “health education classes.” New York City students will receive sex ed for one semester in 6th or 7th grade and then again in 9th or 10th grade. It is recommended the schools use either the Health Smart lessons or the Reducing the Risk lessons.

The New York Post reported on these programs recently, and the story sparked outrage from parents and the public. The Post obtained workbooks for middle and high school students and found the following lessons for the students:

high school students go to the store to comparison shop for condoms based on price, brand, and features; students locate clinics close to school that provide birth control and STD tests and, not surprisingly, write down the clinic’s confidentiality policy (evidently students need education and parents need to be kept in the dark); 11- and 12-year-olds will get “risk cards” so they can rate the safety of activities like anal sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation, among others; and teens are referred to Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice website, where they can further research topics such as bestiality, oral sex with braces, phone sex, and “sadomasochistic sex play.”

But, hold the phone (sex)!

Natalie Ravitz, Director of Communications for the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE), writes in the Huffington Post that the New York Post has the facts wrong. She writes that the NYC DOE worked with the publisher to create a version for NYC that did not have some of the lessons in it, one of them being the “risk cards,” because they were not “age-appropriate.” She made no mention of the field trip lessons to do condom research and find the nearest clinic. She also says the reference to Go Ask Alice is in the teacher’s manual as a website they can go to as one of several “possible resources that teachers can utilize for tips on answering questions on sexuality,” so they do not direct the students to the website. Well, the NYC DOE might not direct the students to the website, but what is to say the teachers will not?

She writes further about one of the programs, “Reducing the Risk” which is a “research-based sex risk reduction curriculum that is shown to help delay the initiation of sexual intercourse, increase the use of contraception among teens who do initiate sexual intercourse, and increase parent-child communication about abstinence and contraception.” Why do children need to research the confidentiality policies of birth control and STD testing clinics if the curriculum is increasing parent-child communication?

The Post story quotes the DOE as stating the curriculum “stresses that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and STD/HIV.”

Let’s see how the curriculum goes about emphasizing abstinence. Reducing the Risk, Class 1A, “Abstinence, Sex and Protection: Pregnancy Prevention Emphasis,” points out that, “This program uses a specific definition of abstinence: abstinence means choosing not to do any sexual activity that carries a risk for pregnancy or STD/HIV.”

Well, that’s certainly an interesting definition of abstinence.

As quoted in Concerned Women for America’s recent report, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: The Cost of Free Love,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define it a little differently, “Abstinence from vaginal, anal and oral intercourse is the only 100% effective way to prevent HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy.” Also found in the report are descriptions of 49 sexually transmitted diseases and which sexual activities are associated with each disease.

Back to Reducing the Risk and its lessons designed to emphasize abstinence. Version 1 of the Model Role Play instructs the teacher, “The purpose of the Pregnancy Risk Activity is to demonstrate the substantial risk teens have of getting pregnant when they engage in unprotected sex. The activity is not intended to demonstrate specific statistical risk, but to help students personalize their risk of pregnancy and think about how their lives would change if they did get pregnant or get someone pregnant. Therefore, the activity is designed so that all students in the class do “get pregnant.”

It further instructs the teacher to, “Explain that for purposes of this activity we will make believe that everyone in the class is having unprotected sex each month, although we know that most young people their age are not having sex.”

Wouldn’t focusing on the point that most teens are not having sex be a better way to emphasize abstinence?

Speaking of abstinence, perhaps Mayor Bloomberg should offer this curriculum to the Occupy Wall Street protestors. A New York Post story states that OWS protestors are “flocking to nearby health clinics for STD and HIV testing after getting their freak on in ’60s-style hookups with crusty strangers.” A volunteer in Zuccotti Park who identified himself only as “Captain” also added that pregnancy tests are in demand (pun intended).

One lesson the protestors do not need help with, though, is bestiality. There is video that shows OWS protestors chanting, “You can have sex with animals.” The abstinence role-play lesson for these miscreants is “try that with one of the NYC’s police dogs.”

Out of curiosity, are any of these OWS protestors by chance NYC sex ed teachers?

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