In a new report titled “Healthy Relationships: A Plan for Improving Health and Sexual Education in New York City School,” Stringer chronicled how little sex education New York City’s public school children get.
According to Stringer’s report, 57 percent of eighth-grade students completed the New York State-mandated requirement of one semester of health during the middle school years, 7.6 percent of all health instructors participated in professional development of any kind related to sexual health education within the last two years and of all the middle schools specifically, 28 percent don’t have a teacher assigned to teach health.
“We did this report to elevate the conversation about a topic that is serious and, I believe, crucial for our students—and we hope to see the needle move in the right direction in the future,” Stringer said in a statement. “We, as a city, are defined by how we treat our children. Yet, when just a fraction of eighth-grade students is getting mandated instruction, I’m alarmed. That’s why I’m calling on the DOE to implement a Chancellor’s Regulation that guarantees sexual health education for all middle and high school students. It’s common sense, it should be codified in the rules and it should be considered part of a standard classroom education for all—not a luxury for a few.”
During a news conference, Stringer said that the classroom should be a resource that students use to get educated about sexual health. He said it should be the area where children can be more inquisitive.
“It’s where they can ask questions in a safe space, ask for help if they’re being bullied and learn about options to practice safe sex and make healthy choices,” said Stringer. “For too many children, it’s the only opportunity to have these conversations.”
Among teenagers in New York City, incidents of chlamydia and gonorrhea were on the decline after peaking in 2011, but started to increase in 2015 (the last year for which data are available). While pregnancy rates overall among New York City teenagers have dropped in recent years, the Bronx has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state.
In the report’s executive summary, Stringer highlights how much a decrease in funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs from President Donald Trump’s administration played a role in the office’s advocacy.
“The intent of the current presidential administration is clear: to scale back funding for programs that work to prevent teenage pregnancy through comprehensive sexual health education and instruction in favor of funding for abstinence-only programs,” read the summary. “In July 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that all grant funding through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program would be terminated two years early. In addition, the House FY18 Appropriations proposal strips funding for evidence-based sexual health programs, including TPP and the Personal Responsibility Education Program and increases funding for abstinence-only sexual risk education.”
The summary continued, “In light of the federal government’s resolve to roll back progress on comprehensive sexual health education and waste money on programs that have been proven ineffective, it is imperative that New York City hold itself to a higher standard and ensure our students receive a comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual health education.”