Over the previous three decades, the rate of sexual promiscuity among school going children and youth in the United States has risen considerably, with upwards of 3 million cases of sexually Transmitted Diseases among teenagers. These are coupled with the fact that there were upwards of 1 million pregnancies every year. The pregnancy and STD rates point to an even more worrying prospect, HIV and Aids. HIV infections are the fifth leading cause of deaths among teens and young adults (ages 15 to 24). The youth at in these age brackets are undeniably sexually active, but with the increased excitement of exploration and lack of commitment, exposes them to far greater risks of diseases, unplanned pregnancies and early parenthood among other effects. This paper presents important information about promiscuity in New York public Schools, including a critical evaluation of the policies laws and programs that are already in place to limit the risks involved. Perhaps even most crucially, this paper seeks to evaluate and present helpful recommendations to school authorities, youth, parents and policy makers in New York City and elsewhere.
Approaches and Strategies to Combat New York School Promiscuity
Most strategies that have been adopted by schools in new York City, have largely been inspired by the federal government’s policies and laws and thus understanding these environment is helpful in understanding approaches by individual institutions. The enactment in 1996 of Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, serves to offer an important legal background to the policies and strategies that have been adopted by many schools in New York City. This legislation provided for Abstinence Education Programs, encouraged through increased funding of abstinence promotion programs across the United States, as an approach to encourage healthy sexual conduct among teens. Beginning from the 1998 Fiscal year, there have been upwards of $50 million annual federal funding directed towards abstinence promotion programs. In addition, the government has actively sought to encourage healthy sexual activity among teenagers and young adults under several programs administered by the Department of Health & Human Services. All states, must match the funding provided by the federal government by at least 75%, which ensures that every state has upwards of$87 million for abstinence education.
In addition, the Balanced Budget Act (1997) authorizes a scientific evaluation of the programs under Title V, which recommended several programs as prototypes to be adopted by schools and other youth institutions in the country. These included initiatives such as the ReCapturing the Vision program implemented by both Florida and Miami, Teens in Control by Milwaukee as well as the United to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Program adopted by Wisconsin among others. These programs have been evaluated to have considerable effects on the students’ attitudes towards sexual behavior and promiscuity, despite the fact that its actual effects on the rates of sexual activity cannot be accurately estimated.
Accordingly, schools in New York City have adopted abstinence education programs with varying emphasis on different aspects. Many schools have introduced sex education as part of their programs, and by 2012 sex education became mandatory in the City’s High and Middle Schools. While the sex education programs are by policy geared towards preventing unplanned pregnancies and transmission of STDs, there are multiple aspects of the curriculum that seek to promote sexual maturity, responsibility and reduced promiscuity among the children. In the curriculum that was introduced across the city by the mandatory sex education program, children are required to visit shopping centers and review the prices for condoms and other contraceptives, evaluate the effectiveness and safety of different birth control measures, the risks involved. In addition, the curriculum provides multiple resources including the Columbia University’s Website that contains information about sex, masochism, sexual fetishes, pornography, phone and oral sex among others.
Following studies indicating that widespread alcohol use and drug addiction, the city authorities as well as the individual school authorities influenced teen promiscuity in New York City launched a number of programs to help combat alcohol addiction and use (CNN, 1999). These programs were modeled after similar programs in Milwaukee and California. They included strict enforcement of laws to avert alcohol sale to teenagers, coupled with campaigns directed towards the youth, on the dangers of alcohol abuse and drug use. These campaigns were and continue to be run in schools, sporting activities, churches and other places where young people congregate.
The New York Department of Education intends that the students would understand the difficulties associated with birth control measures, unsafe sex and sexually transmitted diseases, which will ultimately make them understand the crucial importance of abstinence and faithfulness to one’s partners as against promiscuity with a false sense of security. In addition, by providing students with information about varied sexual behaviors, the approach ensures that children are exposed and bust the myths associated with issues such as masochism, sexual bondage, three-some sexual experiences, and college orgies among others. These in turn foster sexual maturity and responsibility, which in turn informs the students’ decision-making with regard to sex and sexual partners, which ultimately reduces their potential involvement with multiple sexual partners.
While provision of information to children is critical, individual institutions have sought to instill sexual morals in students, which actively seek to promote faithfulness, abstinence and responsibility. Borrowing from private schools owned by Religious Organizations, which insist on moral propriety, which include sex and marriage, a number of public schools have as well introduced programs to promote sexual faithfulness, abstinence and responsibility. In this regard, schools have enlisted the assistance of parents and role models, who have been encouraged to freely discuss the children’s sexuality, through multiple channels. Until, the mandatory sex education programs, authorities in a number of New York City public schools rejected many forms of sex education. This opposition was widely inspired by the fact that sex education promoted a false sense of safety offered by the use of contraceptives, which did in turn lead to increased incidences of promiscuity, unplanned pregnancies and sexual irresponsibility.
More revolutionary approaches to preventing sexual promiscuity in public schools, have included the provision of clinics within institutions, which among others provide advice on contraceptives, screen sexually transmitted diseases and provide students with accurate information about the risks of promiscuity. This strategy, which has proven popular in high schools and colleges, is geared at providing students with information about the realities that students face if they engage in promiscuity and other sexual activities. It breaches the “distant nature” of diseases such as HIV/AIDs by making certain students know that promiscuity places them on the first lane to contracting them. While it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of extreme measures that give students an acute understanding of the realities facing them, usually resulting into acute aversions or liking (Shock Therapies) on the rates of promiscuity, actual school regulations and laws in many institutions categorically prohibit the involvement of students in certain romantic activities. Primary and High schools mostly ban sex, indecent exposure, sexual friendships and provocative dressing among others, as well of discouraging students from being involved in sexual activities whatsoever.
Draft Policy Recommendations
Sex Education is schools is important, if it is designed and delivered to the students in the right way. It is critical to remember that children and young adults have access to information about sex from both their peers as well as the media, and since the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed, it is critical that schools ensure that children have accurate information. Schools must embrace the mandatory sex education policy imposed by the New York City, but adjust the curriculum to suit the age and other needs of the students. Broad messages are likely to be ineffective, since teenagers tend to be dismissive of anything they find irrelevant or uncomfortable.
Sex education curriculum should include information on the both contraception and abstinence, coupled with the consequences of the respective choices in an objective and professional manner.
Introduce HIV/AIDS and STD screening and advice clinics within schools in the city, as way of ensuring that children in learning institutions know that the risks that they expose themselves to are real. This also ensures that students who use these facilities are counseled on the risks of promiscuity and other unhealthy sexual behavior.
High schools are lower learning institutions should ban open involvement in relationships, indecent dressing, indecent exposure, while the interaction between genders should be closely monitored by responsible adults
Actively involve churches, parents and the school communities in encouraging children to refrain from promiscuous activities and behavior. In addition, parents, teachers and the society must exemplify the virtues of sexual fidelity in order to ensure that children follow in their footsteps. Schools must promote strong family values and morality, even as an admission criteria, to ensure that children get the best moral foundation.
As a social worker, there are a number of strategies that may be used to limit the involvement of the youth in promiscuous sexual conduct. These include among others:
Using children’s sporting and other social activities to promote sexual responsibility
Do not tell children what they should do, since this will make them rebel, but give them accurate information that would make them choose the best options for themselves
Actively involve parents and religious authorities in the provision of sex education and moral guidance to students
Distribute informative resources such as movies, books, leaflets and video, to help impress upon the students to make informed and responsible students.
Create, facilitate or promote school clubs (e.g. the Young Christian Association among others) that would help impact the students’ moral values away from promiscuous behavior.
Teach students creative and critical thinking skills to be able to judge information and situations that they face in their lives, largely from the media and peer groups.
Social workers must not be overbearing on the students. Instead, seek to build healthy, less formal friendships with them away from their usual academic authorities to make frank sharing and communication easy.
Adolescents and sexuality are least discussed by the relevant authorities, despite the silent recognition of its importance and the effects that the youth are exposed to. It is indeed difficult for most parents to openly take up sexuality issues with their own children, even when children are involved in dangerous sexual activities and behavior, such as promiscuity and unsafe sex. Recent literatures point to increasing portrayal of promiscuity as an expression of freedom, machismo and growth among youths. This is an attitude that has bred sexual irresponsibility and slowed maturity. What is even more critical is the fact that avoiding these issues, coupled with the rising rates of sexual promiscuity and other risky sexual conduct, exposes school going youth to massive health care, coupled with other emotional and practical difficulties associated with early parenthood, personal esteem and possible abortions (safe or otherwise) among others.
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