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Editorial: Improve sex ed in our schools

Image from The Journal of Science of human

Image from The Journal of Science of human sperm (2003) Credit: AP Photo

Sex education in our public schools needs to be comprehensive, properly targeted, and explicit in the way it educates our children.

A new study of 82 districts across the state (16 of them on Long Island) suggests it often isn't. A broader look, and one that more specifically targets Long Island districts, is needed, but if it confirms that sex education is lacking, an overhaul of the curriculm is warranted.

The report, released last week by the New York Civil Liberties Union, showed that only about one-third of districts taught students how to use condoms to prevent pregnancy and disease. More than half did not teach about sexual orientation. And a majority did not even mention female genitalia.

That is unacceptable.

Teen pregnancies contribute to a plethora of problems, as do sexually transmitted diseases, and efforts to give students every tool possible to avoid them should be vigorous. Dropping out of school, failing to attend college, creating single-parent homes, having difficulty in getting and keeping good jobs: These and many other societal problems are increased by teen pregnancy.

And unintended pregnancies, even when they come well after the teen years, carry heavy burdens. Parents can ask to keep their children out of sex education classes, and we support that option. But those who attend should receive a broad base of age-appropriate knowledge about sexuality, contraception, abstinence, disease prevention and all the ills that can occur when pregnancies come too early, or simply at the wrong time.