Did you know that, until last week, New York City teenagers weren't allowed to see condom demonstrations in their public school health classes?! While the classes currently feature verbal lessons about condom usage, teens were never able to see actual demonstrations, nor were they allowed to do the whole practice-on-a-banana thing. This missing piece of sex ed curriculum is incredibly dangerous; most of the time, if a condom fails, it can be blamed on human error. It is necessary to witness and practice actually putting on condoms in order to ensure the highest possible chance of correct and safe use. Melisa Garber, who teaches health at St. Ann's in Brooklyn, told Refinery 29, "In my experience, the details are really important. There are things that even adults might not think about, like [the condom's] expiration date, or not pinching the end of it to eliminate air and leave room so it doesn't break during ejaculation. The failure rate attributed to condoms is because of human error."
Before this bizarrely delayed change in policy occurred, NYC teens seeking condom demonstrations or more specific help had to visit campus "health resource rooms" on their own time. The health resource rooms offered free condoms, hands-on instruction, and other sex ed information, but how likely is it that shy, unfocused, and/or embarrassed teenagers will reach out for that help on their own? In an interview with The Classic, NYC health teacher Maria Assante said, "In a year, being generous, I get about 20 kids for these demonstrations." So not a lot.Of course, if it took this long for a state as seemingly liberal as New York to institute such a change, you can imagine that conservative parents are none too pleased. The New York City Parents Union group is especially up in arms, since apparently if teens don't learn about contraceptives, they just won't have sex, right? While, as with most sex ed classes, parents can opt out of certain lessons, Mona Davids of the NYC Parents Union told NBC that they should instead have to "opt in." Davids explained that talking about condoms was one thing, but demonstrating proper use just took it too far. She expressed the danger of the lessons by pointing out that, by teaching condom demos, "it's kind of like you're normalizing it." ...but isn't that a good thing? Would you rather normalize STIs and unplanned pregnancies? Presenting condoms as reckless and inappropriate merely stigmatizes safe sex. WHY WOULD YOU WANT THAT?NYC.gov explains that teens comprise more than 1 in 4 of the diagnosed cases of STIs in New York City, and in 2007, 10,000 teenage girls were diagnosed with chlamydia, and 2,300 teenagers of all genders were diagnosed with gonorrhea. The American Journal of Public Health recently released a study based on CDC surveys of New York City teens proving that LGB teenagers are more likely to experience unplanned pregnancies because of inefficient sex ed curriculum.The NYC Department of Education released the following statement:
"Condom demonstrations have long been part of the high school condom availability programs and have been shown to increase rates of condom use. Allowing condom demonstrations in high school health education class will provide students with medically accurate information that can help them stay healthy."
Congratulations to the teenagers and health teachers of New York City, who finally have the chance to learn and teach something that should have been a routine part of sex ed a long time ago.
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