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These shortcomings take on added urgency today, as more and more health indicators related to sexual health are beginning to inch up again after years of decline, especially in poorer neighborhoods of the city.In May 2017, the New York City Council passed legislation creating a task force to review the state of sexual health education in city schools.Currently, School Wellness Councils exist in about 173 schools, which receive small grants (under ,500) to implement or continue program.Coordinate sexual health and wellness efforts with Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV).According to the poll results, just 65 percent of middle and high school students reported that their health classes in school included sexuality education.Of those, 43 percent did not learn about gender identity/expression, and 38 percent did not discuss consent in class.[vi] Similarly, poll results revealed that just 66 percent of students knew where to go for sexual and reproductive health services.Through comprehensive, culturally responsive, and sustained instruction, led by professional and trained educators, students can develop lifelong competencies promoting healthy behaviors, decision-making, and self-awareness.
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.
The DOE does provide a snapshot of compliance with New York State requirements for health education in reporting the number and percent of students who completed health instruction, and the number and percent of teachers licensed to teach health.
But this data would be more readily accessible to parents if it were included as part of every school’s quality review. School Wellness Councils are existing volunteer bodies that can provide oversight and emphasize the importance of sexual health education but they are not in place in every school.
Today, young people in New York City are faced with a much more complex landscape.
Like teenagers everywhere, many New York City adolescents are sexually active, with 46 percent of high school students and 62 percent of high school seniors reporting that they have had intercourse.[viii] Students have questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, and many are seeking guidance on how best to navigate a healthy, intimate relationship and where to turn for sexual and reproductive health services.