Yesterday, the New York State Department of Health and the New York Civil Liberties Union made important and related announcements about abstinence funding in New York State. (Full disclosure: the Pride Agenda endorses the NYCLU’s recommendations as they relate to the state of New York.)
First, state health commissioner Dr. Richard Daines announced that New York would be rejecting federal grants for abstinence-only sex education because the policy was “based on ideology rather than sound scientific-based evidence that must be the cornerstone of good public health policy.” Second, the NYCLU put out a report providing an analysis of these programs in New York State.
To get an overview of both, read Jennifer Medina’s piece in today’s New York Times.
According to the NYCLU, New York received about $10.0 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2006 and matched it with about $4.0 million of its own to fund dozens of abstinence-only programs across the state. New York apparently has been the third largest recipient of federal funds behind only Texas and Florida.
The NYCLU’s analysis of programs in New York reveals that:
1. Abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used across the state contain serious medical inaccuracies and employ fear-based teaching methods.
2. The same curricula demonstrate serious bias in terms of gender and LGBT youth
3. At least 19 of the funded programs focused a significant amount of programming on after school recreational activities with no direct relation to sex education.
The programs in New York make use of four abstinence-only curricula and go by the names: Facing Reality, WAIT Training, Choosing the Best and Sex Respect. (To see who is using these curricula across New York State and to view a county-by-county breakdown of where abstinence-only funding has been going, go to pages 31 and 32 of the NYCLU’s PDF of the report.)
In terms of LGBT youth, pages 19-20 of the NYCLU’s PDF of the report provide details of how these four curricula display bias. Not surprisingly marriage between a man and a woman is presented as the only acceptable form of sexual relations, which of course totally excludes LGBT people from having any sort of intimate relations. Facing Reality encourages teachers to feel comfortable passing moral judgments on LGBT populations and Sex Respect only mentions LGBT issues within the context of HIV/AIDS. The NYCLU concludes that “these curricula ignore or demonize the experiences of an already marginalized, but significant, population."
One of the key NYCLU recommendations we want to highlight is the need to pass the Healthy Teens Act. This bill did in fact pass the Assembly this year, but stalled in the Senate. Sponsored by Assemblymember Gottfried and Senator Winner, it creates a grant program to provide age-appropriate, medically accurate, LGBT culturally competent sex education in New York public schools.
We thank the NYCLU for doing the research that made this report possible and we thank the New York State Department of Health for reversing course and refusing federal funds that perpetuate ignorance and harm New York’s youth.