New Jersey sexual health advocates applaud new sex ed standards 

 

New Jersey sexual health advocates applaud new sex ed standards 

Board of Education strengthens sex education statewide

TRENTON, N.J. — As our nation reckons with the systemic racism and violence against Black communities that is a part of all of our institutions, including our education systems, we take pause today to consider how sex education is an equity issue. Sex education is essential to young people’s health, relationships, and life goals, and has a proven track record of helping young people develop the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy decisions about their relationships, their health, and their future. A young person’s ability to receive high-quality, comprehensive sex education should not depend on their district, their school, or their teacher.

Today, sex education advocates, including Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, Answer, Advocates for Youth, the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Garden State Equality, lift up this morning’s passage of new Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education – which includes sex education – by the New Jersey State Board of Education, for adoption statewide. The group also thanked the Department of Education, with whom the coalition worked closely on the development of these new standards.

New Jersey’s previous sex education standards were robust but in need of improvement. Modeled on the National Sexuality Education Standards – the gold standard for sex education – the new guidelines and educational requirements feature an updated, more comprehensive curriculum that includes expanded content topics, including LGBTQ identities and consent.

In order to improve sex education in New Jersey, coalition partners from across New Jersey worked together to release New Jersey’s Sex Ed Report Card, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of sex education policy and programming in districts across the state. Recommendations in this report card seek to ensure that all students, regardless of what school they go to or which teacher they have, receive high-quality, age-appropriate, accurate, and comprehensive sex education, that does not stigmatize or shame young people or withhold critical information.

While the updated standards approved today by the State Board of Education are to be commended, there is still more work to be done. New Jersey needs legislation that will establish and define the right to high quality, comprehensive, affirming sex education for all New Jersey students; legislation that repeals outdated statutes that require stressing the failure rates of contraception and that over-emphasize abstinence instead of educating young people without shame and judgment about all of the ways to protect their health. The coalition also calls for legislation that provides additional tools to support the delivery of sex education so it’s consistent across districts and allocates funding for critical training and professional development.

Quote from Dan Rice, Executive Director, Answer:
“New Jersey has always been among the national leaders when it comes to providing young people with the information they need and deserve to grow into sexually healthy adults. The passage of the 2020 Core Curriculum Content Standards for Health and Physical Education marks the continuation of this merit. At Answer we are proud to see science, awareness of equity issues and the inclusion of all young people were central in the development of the standards related to human development and sexuality. We hope the New Jersey Department of Education will continue down this path of excellence by ensuring all teachers receive the professional development they need to successfully implement the new standards in their classrooms.

Quote from Bianca Mayes, Health and Wellness Coordinator, Garden State Equality:
“New Jersey is the second state to mandate LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum for students in 6th through 12th grade that acknowledges the social, political, and economic contributions of the LGBTQ community. At Garden State Equality, we support LGBTQ students having access to comprehensive sex education. Now more than ever, we must ensure that every student’s full identity is represented in the Sex Education Standards. We must include race, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in the curriculum to help our students make informed decisions about their health. LGBTQ students in NJ deserve to see themselves represented in every class, including and especially their health classes.”

Quote from Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director, New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA)
“Providing New Jersey’s students with thorough and inclusive health and physical education is the first step to creating a safer Garden State. Comprehensive sexual health education is a proven protective factor against sexual violence and essential to young people’s health and safety. We thank the New Jersey Department of Education for adopting the recommendations proposed by NJCASA and allied organizations, which will ensure that the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education are trauma-informed, follow best practices in consent education, and are fully inclusive of LGBTQ youth and families.”

Quote from Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, VP of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey:
“The new and improved sex education standards will ensure that young people have the information, resources and skills they need to protect their health and build their future — without shame or judgment,” said Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey Vice President of Public Affairs Kaitlyn Wojtowicz. “We look forward to working with the Department of Education on the implementation so students have access to the same high-quality resources and information they need to make healthy decisions, no matter their teacher, school, or district.”

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey (PPAFNJ) is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) non-profit social welfare organization, and the advocacy arm of the Planned Parenthood Affiliates in New Jersey. We advocate for access to essential health care through education, activism, voter engagement, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy. For more information, visit our website at www.ppactionnj.org

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