A group of middle-school girls in the South Bronx, tired of the lack of a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum (or, apparently, *any* sex-ed curriculum, since parental pressure has meant the school isn’t even implementing the state-required program), are taking matters into their own hands:
Teach us about the birds and the bees!
That’s the overture from 10 seventh-grade girls at PS 218 in the South Bronx who say they’re tired of relying on raunchy music videos, squeamish parents and uninformed peers to get the straight dope on sex.
Though just 12 and 13 years old, the girls insist their school is failing to meet its mission of “empowering students with purposeful education” because it does not offer sex education – and they’re petitioning to get it.
“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 Ashley Reyes, 13, who with her friends collected 206 signatures from classmates and peers.
These girls aren’t blind. They look around their neighborhood and see the toll that lack of information and discussion of sex has taken:
These girls live in a borough where, according to the city Health Department, 12.8 percent of teenage girls become pregnant. Five of the 10 girls said they know a teenager who got pregnant.
“Kids think they know about sex but they really don’t,” said Yanilsa Frias, 13. “They feel pressured by their peers.”
New York state law requires health education be taught, and that it include HIV/AIDS prevention. These girls are claiming (though the school had no comment) that parental squeamishness about sex has prevented even this required information from being taught. There’s no requirement for teaching about sexuality, which means that sometimes it’s taught, sometimes it’s not, and sometimes, the dreaded abstinence-only sex ed is offered.
But these girls, though young, see right through abstinence-only sex ed.
The state spends about $12 million a year – most of it in federal funds – on abstinence-only programs. Meanwhile, a bill gaining traction in Albany called the Healthy Teens Act would create a funding stream for comprehensive sex ed.
Katherine George, 13, who helped write the petition in an after-school program run by the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corp. (WHEDCo), said “abstinence only” lessons just don’t cut it.
“Teaching kids abstinence makes them more intrigued,” George said. “Your mom can tell you, ‘Don’t take a cookie from the cookie jar,’ but you still want the cookie.”
The good news from all this is not only the Healthy Teens Act gaining traction, but the City Department of Education is in the process of revising its health education guidelines to include a sex-ed component.
And, of course, there are a bunch of smart, activist girls in the Bronx standing up and demanding knowledge.
- So, How’s That Abstinence-Only Thing Working Out For Ya? by zuzu August 17, 2006
- Should parents be allowed to sit in on sex ed classes? by Jill May 29, 2005
- Thy Virginity Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks. by Ryan July 3, 2005
- Take Issue, Take Charge by Lauren September 21, 2005
- No Sex For You! by zuzu April 17, 2006