BronxWorks guides City Council committee on improving Sex Ed

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BronxWorks thinks city schools should put more stress on sexual health education programs and that the city should tighten slack enforcement of standards already in place for these programs.  BronxWorks has the experience to say so, based on its sexual health education program which focuses on the insights and opinions of the youth who participate in it.

“What we have learned from various youth leaders has been very illuminating and forms the basis of our recommendations for strengthening sexual health education in city schools,” says Sherrise Palomino, sexual health education coordinator at BronxWorks.

“Although the Department of Education has in place a mandate for comprehensive sexual health education, enforcement of the mandate has not been a priority,” Ms. Palomino pointed out. “The Department of Education should evaluate schools on an ongoing basis to ensure that schools are complying with the mandate.  Those that are not complying need to develop strategies to meet the criteria by the following semester.  Furthermore, the assessment needs to evaluate how comfortable students are with the sexual health instruction and materials they are receiving and what they have to say to improve them so teenagers can make better and smarter choices concerning their sexual health.”

“Youth leaders from BronxWorks met with City Councilman Cary Johnson, chair of the health committee, to present their recommendations for implementing stronger sexual health education programs,” Ms. Palomino stated. “The recommendations to the City Council are offered as guidelines that the Department of Education needs to enforce.” Right now sexual health education is undervalued by schools largely because it is not considered a necessity, as the recommendations note.

 “In our own work with teens, we have seen the effectiveness of our recommended strategies,” said Ms. Palomino. “BronxWorks provides sexual health education each year to hundreds of youths from the South Bronx to prevent HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, teen dating violence and sexually transmitted diseases.”  

In the recommendations they developed, the youth leaders said they want to see comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sexual health education that should be taught as early as sixth or seventh grade in middle school and ninth and tenth grade in high school. They also recommend setting up an advisory committee to review how other cities implement sexual health programs that may be useful for modifying the mandate in New York City.  The effectiveness of school programs should be included in a school’s overall rating by the Department of Education.

Among other recommendations, overall sexual health education programs in the city should be standardized, with emphasis on making students comfortable with the teaching.  Teachers, administrators and public safety officers also should be trained, with updates every two or three years.

Input from students is very important in strengthening sexual health education programs and making them palatable to young people, according to BronxWorks.  Ms. Palomino’s sexual health education program develops hands-on programs and promotions that make sex education fun and meaningful.

“As part of our community outreach, we create events, participate in community events and otherwise look for opportunities to raise awareness among South Bronx families of the importance of sexual health education and the prevention of HIV,” Ms. Palomino summed up. “The program I oversee also holds forums and meets with community members and organizations to build support for the sexual health initiative being rolled out by BronxWorks.”

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