For the first time in nearly two decades, students in New York City’s public middle and high schools will be required to take sex-education classes beginning this school year, using a curriculum that includes lessons on how to use a condom and the appropriate age for sexual activity.
The Times offers some interesting stats on sex ed:
Nationwide, one in four teenagers between 2006 and 2008 learned about abstinence without receiving any instruction in schools about contraceptive methods, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. As of January, 20 states and the District of Columbia mandated sex and HIV education in schools. An additional 12 states, New York included, required H.I.V. education only, according to a policy paper published by the institute.
Of course, the extremists will organize, as they have in the past, to try to override the advice of health experts at the expense of students.
Opposition from religious groups and school board members eventually defeated a city mandate approved in the 1980s for a sex-education curriculum. But a survey by NARAL Pro-Choice New York in 2009 found that 81 percent of city voters thought sex education should be taught in public schools.
Most disturbing, the Times writes:
Parents will be able to have their children opt out of the lessons on birth-control methods.
In my view, this should be illegal. Why should a teenager have to suffer for the backward religious beliefs of anti-science parents? Religious parents do not have a right place their children at risk for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. If parents want to choose ignorance over education in their own lives, that is fine. If they want to lie to themselves, that is also okay. However, they should not be given the green light to lie to others, including their own children, about safer sex and contraceptives. There is a very good chance that when these children grow up they will no longer share their parents’ religious beliefs or values. Yet, they will be stuck with the damages inflicted by the medieval mindset inflicted on them against their will as youths.
Fundamentalists of all stripes often care more about ideology than real human beings. We see it when they preach against abortion or LGBT adoption, but refuse to adopt enough children, stranding many in foster care or at the orphanage. We also witness this lack of moral conscience in sex education — where these fanatics sometimes appear to actually want out-of wedlock pregnancies or the spread of STD’s — so they can parade their ideology and proudly proclaim, “ah ha, we told you sex has dire consequences. Choose abstinence or suffer!”
Safer sex is almost always less risky than willful ignorance. Parents who do a grave disservice to their children and place them at a disadvantage by opting out should not be immune from consequences too. If parents opt their child out of comprehensive sex education they ought to be liable for damages. If an opted-out daughter has an unwanted pregnancy, the bad parents ought to be forced to pay child support until the lovechild turns 18. No, make that 23 — the age that many students graduate college. If an opted-out child catches an STD, make the parents pay for treatment, plus a counselor if psychological damage results. This means that if an opted out child contracts HIV prior to the age of 18, the negligent parents must pay for a lifetime supply of medication.
If parents abdicate their responsibility to protect their sons and daughters, they should be held accountable to help undo the damage. Opt out is a cop out for good parenting and these religious extremists should no longer get a free pass when they abuse their children through forced ignorance.