Chancellor Concedes School HIV & AIDS
Curriculum is in Critial Condition
Assembly hearing highlights where education is truly a life or death matter
Last month, as chairman of the Education Committee, I co-chaired a public hearing to assess HIV and AIDS education in the city schools, and testimony of Chancellor Joel Klein himself, as well as of others, revealed that the curriculum is outdated and not in compliance either with state or city regulations. Similar gaps were identified in the broader curriculum known as Family Living and Sex Education.
spoke with remarkable candor, conceding that
the overall findings of recent reports issued
by Assemblyman Scott Stringer and by the New
York AIDS Coalition that were sharply critical
of the school system—for having neglected HIV/AIDS education—were
correct. Still, the Chancellor pledged to commit
the Department to rectifying the situation,
from curriculum development to teacher training.
Dr. Roger Platt,
Director of the Office of School Health for
the city’s Department of Education, pledged
that the Department would make completing new
health and HIV/AIDS curriculum models a priority;
would seek to address the shortage of qualified
health education teachers; and would establish
a formal monitoring system to determine system-wide
compliance with health education requirements.
Assemblyman Stringer’s June 2003 report, “Failing Grade: Health Education In New York City Schools,” concluded that staff responsible for implementing the health education curriculum were overwhelmingly unaware of the state and city health education curriculum requirements and unable to comply with them. The report also noted that much of the health education curriculum used in schools—especially in the area of HIV and AIDS—has not been updated in many years, that there is inadequate oversight of these programs, and that teachers receive minimal training. Over three quarters of the city’s
school districts were found to be in violation
of one or more key city or state curriculum
With a very disturbing rise in new HIV infections in the metropolitan area, I believe it is unacceptable that the school system, by its own admission, is failing our young people in providing them with age-appropriate lessons that relate to such important matters. Our young people must understand how HIV is and is not transmitted and how to protect themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancy.
New York State’s pregnancy rate ranks No. 9 in the nation. One in 20 high school students in our city schools either gets pregnant or gets someone else pregnant during their years in high school. The city’s
Family Living and Sex Education curriculum
has not been updated in 18 years, and its HIV/AIDS
curriculum has not been updated since 1991!
As noted by the New York AIDS Coalition, the
Centers for Disease Control 2001 Youth Risk
Behavior Survey revealed that 50.9 percent
of city high school students reported having
had sex, 12.3 percent reported having had sex
before the age of 13, and 18.9 percent reported
having had four or more partners. This is appalling.
A survey conducted by Youth Organizers United just last year surveying almost 500 New York City high school students concluded that only 6 percent had received the mandated six lessons in HIV/AIDS.
The school system’s efforts at providing a quality health and HIV/AIDS curriculum have been woefully insufficient and must be reversed. If we are putting “Children First” we better make sure they have vital health education that may—quite literally—mean
the difference between life and death.#
Assemblyman Sanders is Chairman of the Education Committee. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or by phone at 212.979.9696. His mailing address is 201 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003.