Students Share Opinions on FSSA’s Sex Education

by Sasha Rabinowitz and Bettirose Epstein

Teen pregnancy and STD transmission are issues that young people will always have to face. It is important that teenagers in high school are properly educated on these subjects in order to safely navigate and handle sexual situations, as well as the potential consequences that may follow.

A poll taken by Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) students shows that the current sex education curriculum is not providing adequate information for its students to be confident in handling these emergencies. Students also feel that queer sex and relationships are not being represented in the lesson material.

Interviewees explain that the curriculum prioritized diet and mental health over any sort of sex education.

From a sample size of 50 FSSA students, 98 percent felt that FSSA does not provide adequate and inclusive sex education; 80 percent felt somewhat or not at all prepared to handle pregnancy or STDs; and only 62 percent of students felt that they have sources outside of school (ex. doctors, or family members) that can provide them with sex ed resources.

Without proper education in their younger years, teens will enter adulthood ignorant to the decisions and steps necessary for safe sex. Uneducated teenagers will be left without a full understanding of consent as well as the possible symptoms of an STD, or knowledge on how to handle unwanted pregnancies. 

Senior art major Emily Millán provides their perspective on the sex education at FSSA after taking health the previous school year. 

“In junior year, you are supposed to get your sex ed, but I did not get any. It was all about diet and eating well,” Emily said. 

Students were asked how prepared they felt about handling sexually transmitted disease.

“I feel pretty well prepared, but not because of the school’s education. I feel prepared based on my own research. Also, because I am a lesbian, they don’t really teach how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases between women,” they said.

Their problem with the class was the focus on nutrition and the lack of queer sex education. They hope that future sex education at FSSA will prioritize body positivity and inclusivity, ensuring that queer sex and relationships are covered as well. Refraining from making any topics seem “dirty” or “inappropriate” may be another step toward building a better sex education curriculum.

Additionally, senior drama major, Daniel Sabados concurs that there was no unit covering sex during health class in junior year. 

“I felt that a lot of other students were uneducated. I believe that the most important unit in health class is the sex education. It must be provided for maturing teens who are trying to find themselves,” he said.

Daniel feels confident in his ability to handle pregnancy and STDs, but only due to extensive research done on his own time. He also feels that he does have sources outside of school, although they may not be completely reliable.

“I have people that I could talk to, although it would be a very awkward and uncomfortable conversation. So, I think that if the school discussed different ways to go about having that conversation with parents, it would be really helpful,” he added. 

In order to improve the curriculum in health class, he wishes there was more education regarding the prevention of teenage pregnancy and what to do in the event of a pregnancy.

“I don’t even want to think about that. It is actually terrifying to me. Obviously I don’t want to have that conversation with my parents because that’s so awkward,” senior instrumental student Mia Bravo said.

Mia is just one of the 38 percent of students who do not have resources outside of school to learn about safe sex. She said that because there is such a lack of preparation for safe sex, students are left feeling lost and unsure. The internet is not always reliable and can often be a source of misinformation which makes school-provided materials even more necessary.

It is extremely important that teenagers feel confident in their abilities to handle the possible results of sex, especially those who are advancing into their adult years.

The lack of substance in the health curriculum could possibly have been excused as one of the many consequences of remote learning; as the same thing occurred in other classes. However, juniors who are currently in FSSA’s health class have also voiced concerns about the curriculum. 

While senior students are able to look back on their experiences in health class, juniors provide a current perspective.

“FSSA while being an extremely inclusive school, skims over and skips over the important information of sex ed,” Julia Berman, a junior drama major said. This statement complements those previously made. “Our health classes cover a lot about dieting and mental issues, which is important, but sexual health is something that should become normalized to learn about,” she added.

Dani Brown, another junior drama major, strongly believes that whether it’s the teachers, or the NYCDOE, they have failed to create a substantial sex ed program for its students.

“As an 11th grader halfway through the school year, the word ‘sex’ hasn’t come up in any of my classes. Most teenagers start to become sexually active between the ages of 16-18, so it seems counterproductive to start bringing up the topics of safe sex by the time half of the junior class is 17 years old,” Dani said.

She believes that sex has been completely stigmatized and shamed among people, especially teens.

“This problem is rooted in the deep inaccuracies, or rather lack of, a comprehensive and inclusive sex education,” she adds.

The inadequacies of the health curriculum has led her to feel completely unprepared to handle pregnancy or an STD.

“I have an understanding of myself, however there are many students who have questions and feel not prepared, who haven’t even been taught sex ed yet,” said Joseph Morales, a junior drama student.

Despite the lack of material on this topic, he does feel somewhat prepared to tackle these issues on his own, but shows concern for his peers.

“I do have resources outside of school, however I know many of my peers and friends do not,” he adds.

Overall, multiple students agree that the sex education program is insufficient. However, interviewed students have provided realistic solutions to these gaps in the curriculum. Dani suggests the “Teen Activity Program” (TAP) as a reliable resource for students to learn about safe sex on their own. Joseph agrees, requesting for reliable outside resources to be provided for students, as well as LGBTQ+ inclusivity within lessons. Julia has also proposed for just a few days, or a week where students are open to ask questions anonymously, and teachers respond in their lessons, adapting to what students need.