Girls campaign for sex ed

Seventh-grade girls petition for comprehensive sex ed at their school in the South Bronx, N.Y.

Published June 21, 2006 9:38PM (EDT)

In a delightfully naughty move, a group of seventh-grade girls have dodged widespread parental unease over sex education at their South Bronx, N.Y., school by petitioning for an extensive sex-ed curriculum, according to the New York Post. The girls say that their school, P.S. 218, has folded under pressure from concerned parents, failing even to initiate the HIV/AIDS curriculum that is required by state law. With the help of the Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation's after-school program, the 10 students were able to write the petition and secure 206 signatures.

Contrary to the school's stated goal of "empowering students with purposeful education," the students say they've been left to their own devices. It seems the attitude is, "You know kids these days -- so incredibly tech-savvy. They can Google their way to any answer they need." But if that perspective isn't immediately frightening, this is: "The only sex education we have is music videos, the Internet and books because our parents don't talk about it with us and we don't get it in school," said 13-year-old Ashley Reyes, who worked on the petition. That's a sentiment you can only hope registers with parents and educators. What's more alarming: thinking about your 12- or 13-year-old learning the nitty-gritty about sex (from a licensed educator), or forming their understanding of their own sexuality and what constitutes safe sex based on the ego-stroking itemization of a rap star's sexploits or the navel-gazing sexuality of crooning pop balladeers?

But if the 12.8 percent of teenage girls in this neighborhood who become pregnant isn't a strong enough message to bring about comprehensive sex-ed classes, it's questionable whether the petition will do the job. According to the Post, five of the 10 girls behind the petition know a fellow teenager who has gotten pregnant. Dana Czuczka from Planned Parenthood of New York City told the Post that P.S. 218 is hardly unusual as state schools go: "It's very piecemeal. Depending on the classroom, there may be a teacher who decides to provide the information." A spokesperson from the City Department of Education told the Post that the city was currently working on a sex-ed curriculum to include in health classes.

Aside from these girls' gumption, the most encouraging piece of news in the Post article is that there's a strong push to pass the Healthy Teens Act, which would allot funds for comprehensive sex ed in the state. It's a noble attempt to augment the $12 million spent by the state each year on abstinence-only education.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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