New York City students say the sex education they get in school is often too little, too late — and, in many cases, doesn’t touch on issues affecting those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. That’s according to two surveys released Tuesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Teen Activist Project and Youth Organizing Institute.
“So many people claim to support LGBTQ rights, but we feel excluded from the curriculum in our own schools,” Marlon Rajan, 16, a student activist who helped with the surveys, said in a statement. “Many of the LGBTQ students at my school don’t know what resources are available to them or who to talk to if they have a problem.”
Each survey included responses from about 300 students from dozens of different high schools.
Half of the students who responded said they learned about sex from their friends, and 11 percent said they had not received information or had no one to ask about sex. More than 80 percent had learned about contraception and sexually transmitted infections in school, but only half said they were taught they have a “right to access confidential health care without involving a parent,” according to the NYCLU.
The survey also found that a majority of students — 88 percent — were not aware their school is required to have someone on staff trained to handle issues of bullying. State law called the Dignity for All Students Act, or DASA, requires all schools to have a coordinator trained to respond to harassment based on race, disability, sexual orientation and more. But only 19 percent of students surveyed knew who their DASA coordinator was — and many schools themselves didn’t know, either, according to the NYCLU.
“One coordinator did not know that they were assigned the role,” the report states.
The NYCLU recommends increased training, informing students about their right to confidential health care and incorporating LGBTQ issues into sex education.
The city Department of Education is making some headway in this realm, recently hiring a “gender equity coordinator.” It also hired its first LGBTQ liaison last year, a position created with funding from the City Council. In response to questioning by Councilman Daniel Dromm at an education committee budget hearing Tuesday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said she would consider building ongoing funding for the position into the Department of Education budget.
“Certainly, the success we’ve seen this year … we really want to see that progress go forward,” she said.
A proposal to fund training for educators on including LGBTQ issues in the classroom was originally included on Wednesday’s agenda for the Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide body. But it was pulled after “the original proposed vendor didn’t work out,” according to a Department of Education spokesman. A new vendor is expected, he added.
“We’re dedicated to providing every student, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, with a high-quality education in a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment,” Toya Holness, a Department of Education spokeswoman, wrote in an email. “As part of this commitment, we require comprehensive health education, which includes topics on sexual health in middle and high school.”