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Too racy? Sex ed returning to NYC schools

Too racy or just right? That's what New Yorkers are asking after details of the planned sex ed curriculum in New York City public schools were revealed in recent days.
/ Source: NBC, msnbc.com and news services

Too racy or just right? That's what New Yorkers are asking after details of the planned sex ed curriculum in New York City public schools were revealed in recent days.

The New York Post said it had reviewed workbooks from the city's Department of Education that included assignments like these:

  • High schoolers go to stores and jot down condom brands, prices and features like lubrication.
  • Teens research a route from school to a clinic that provides birth control and STD tests, and write down its confidentiality policy.
  • Role playing on how to resist sexual advances and on "negotiating condom use."
  • 11-12 year olds sort "risk cards" on various activities — including "intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant," mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex.

In addition, teens are referred to resources like Columbia University’s website "Go Ask Alice," which explores topics like "doggie-style" and other sex positions, "sadomasochistic sex play," phone sex, oral sex with braces, fetishes, porn stars, vibrators and bestiality.

The curriculum is recommended but not required for the sex ed classes set to start around the city next spring. The classes will be coed, and can be incorporated into existing health education courses.

The city's Department of Education emphasized that the curriculum "stresses that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and STD/HIV" and reminded the Post that parents have the option to exclude their kids from lessons on "methods of prevention."

Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs recently commended the return of mandatory sex ed classes, saying students should have accurate information about sexual activity if they do choose to engage in it.

"We want to help kids to delay the onset of sexual activity, and if they choose to engage in sexual activity, to do it in a healthy way," she said last August.

The Post quoted one anonymous Manhattan mom with a middle-school child as describing the possible assignments as "pretty outrageous."

Another mom with two girls was surprised by "how much detail they would get" but also was resigned to children learning about sex on their own even without the curriculum.

Even before the Post's report, the topic surfaced on the New York Times op-ed pages last week.

"The state has a legitimate interest in reducing teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases," wrote Robert George, a politics professor at Princeton and founder of the American Principles Project, and Melissa Moschella, a political theory grad student at Princeton. "But it is not abuse or neglect to protect the innocence of preteenage children or to teach one’s children more conservative, as opposed to more liberal, moral values."

George and Moschella urged the city to offer a broader parental opt out policy.

The curriculum also was criticized by a noted child psychiatrist — but for another reason.

Miriam Grossman, author of "You’re Teaching My Child What?", told the Post that the curriculum "relies on latex".

"Kids are being told to either abstain or use condoms — that both are responsible, healthy choices," she said.

More focus, she added, should be on the facts that pregnancy can still happen with a condom, and that STDs such as herpes live on body parts not covered by a condom.