The Parents’ Choice Coalition was launched to provide information to individual parents and interested organizations about the mayor’s sex ed mandate, which requires all NY public schools to teach sex ed and recommends the use of one particular curriculum. Given that over 20 curricula have demonstrated significant results through national, peer-reviewed studies, mandating a one-size fits all curriculum to the children and families of NY leaves the choice and education of our children in the hands of the mayor of NY. This is arbitrary, and, in fact, in direct conflict with existing Department of Education policy related to all other educational areas.
In 2007 the NYC school system was decentralized after principals signed a performance agreement with the cityallowing them to become the equivalent of a CEO of their school. [i] Each principal was given the authority to determine the curriculum and how it is implemented in their individual school with the expectation they meet state guidelines.[ii] The reasoning behind this move was that individual principals know what is best for their students at a more intimate level than the DOE. [iii] The role of the Department of Education is to provide support and resources so schools can achieve progress with their students as well as evaluate them to ensure they maintain state standards in all areas of education. Principals may choose any curriculum of any subject, as long as they comply with guidelines released by the NY State DOE. [iv] The Office of School Wellness provides classes for principals and teachers on the NY State guidelines for sexual education and how they can meet them. Principals can then take the guidelines and modify their selected sexual education programs as they see fit.
Before the August 2011 mandate requiring the teaching of sexual education in all middle and high schools, the NYC DOE encouraged parents who wanted their child to receive health education to directly talk to the classroom teacher at the elementary level and the vice-principal and principal at the secondary level about content to be taught in the classroom. At the elementary level, if health was not taught, the parent was encouraged to go to the PTA or principal. At the secondary level, parents were encouraged to contact the city DOE Office of School Wellness Programs. [v]
Even Planned Parenthood is well aware of the principal’s role in choosing the individual school’s curriculum. They launched the campaign “We’re Going to the Principal’s Office!” to encourage people in NYC to go to their local principals and persuade them to implement sex education in their schools.[vi]
It is up to parents to speak to their principals about the curricula that will be taught to their children. Parents and principals together have the right to choose that curricula. Let the mayor know that he cannot arbitrarily take that right away, and change the rules by which education happens in this city.
[i] “Performance and Accountability.” NYC Department of Education. n.d. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/default.htm>; Caloir, Stephanie. Phone Interview. 23 May 2011.
[ii] “Performance and Accountability,” op. cit.
[iii] Caloir, Stephanie, op. cit.
[iv]“Health Education Frequently Asked Questions.” NYC Department of Education. n.d. Web. 23 September 2011. <http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/1560E2BB-2B3E-4089-AAC9-44047406F0EF/72785/FAQsforsecondaryhealthcurriculum.pdf>
[v] “Health Education Frequently Asked Questions,” op. cit.
[vi] “Ensure NYC Students Receive Sex Ed.” Planned Parenthood of New York City. Planned Parenthood. n.d. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/nyc/Ensure-NYC-students-receive-sex-ed-30385.htm>