New York gubernatorial candidate opposes swearing in sex ed classrooms

The late comedian George Carlin rose to fame in 1972 with his piece on “seven dirty words” you couldn’t say on TV.

On Tuesday, 50 years later, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino drew up a list of swear words he says shouldn’t be taught in New York schools.

Standing outside Croton-Harmon High School, Astorino spoke out against the teaching of inappropriate sexual material in schools, at least without parental consent. He shared a photo of a whiteboard from a high school health class that showed a list of slang words for sex and sexual acts.

Astorino was particularly bothered by the inclusion of the word “charizarding”, which supposedly describes the use of fire during sex, saying such an act would be criminal.

“There are things that shouldn’t be discussed in classrooms,” he said, adding that he agreed with “typical” sex education.

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GOP debate hits sex ed

What schools teach about sex and gender has become a hot “culture war” issue in many red states. Schools across the country became the focus of conservative groups last year for instructions on race and racism, as well as masks and other COVID protocols.

A Florida law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March that sparked national debate and opposition prohibits teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity through third grade and any such instruction at all levels that is “not age or developmentally appropriate”.

Rob Astorino, candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, talks about what he calls "radical sexual indoctrination" in New York High Schools at Croton-Harmon High School on June 14, 2022.

Sex education in New York schools came up during Monday’s Republican debate between Astorino and three other gubernatorial candidates. US Representative Lee Zeldin – who has the support of the state GOP – and former aide to President Trump Andrew Giuliani have also said they are concerned about the teaching of sex education, especially in the early years. years.

“There’s material being taught to our kids earlier right now that isn’t age appropriate and I don’t support that,” Zeldin said.

Businessman Harry Wilson said the effects of pandemic education on students was a much more serious concern.

A spokesperson for Astorino, the former two-term Westchester County executive, said the candidate came to Croton-Harmon because he had recently been contacted by several parents who questioned the approach of school in terms of sex education.

On Tuesday, a parent from Croton-Harmon stood next to Astorino to say his child felt uncomfortable taking a health class that included the use of ‘inappropriate vernacular’ . She did not want to be identified because she was concerned about the community’s reaction.

“I just don’t think it doesn’t belong in the classroom,” she said. “I think there are other ways you can teach these subjects.”

Defend their schools

Other parents disagreed. A dozen people who heard of Astorino’s appearance showed up to wave pride flags and question Astorino. Two shouted as he spoke that his words were taken out of context.

“As a parent in an amazing school district, I disagree with a politician coming here for a political stunt, saying things that we absolutely disagree with,” Alicia Murphy said. Wartell, who has two children, ages 8 and 5. , in district schools.

Alicia Murphy, a parent from Croton-Harmon Schools, was part of a group opposed to Astorino's views.  Rob Astorino, candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, held a press conference on what he calls

Another parent, Elisa Silverglade, who has children in grades nine and six, said schools cannot ignore the sexual terms and acts students encounter on TikTok, other social media and online pornography.

“I don’t see how we can teach our children things like consent and respectful sex without answering questions about what they see and hear,” she said.

New York State does not require schools to teach sex education — one of 17 states without a mandate in 2021, according to SIECUS, a national sex education advocacy group.

It is therefore up to each school district to decide what it will teach.

There have been several bills in Albany in recent years that would have required instructions on sex education, including a bill in 2019 that would have created one of the most comprehensive sex education laws in the country. . But none passed, in part because of worries about who would pay for a new curriculum and staff training.

New York is one of 38 states that specifically require HIV/AIDS instructions.

Appeal to State Standards

Astorino said New York State should adopt standards that define what schools should teach about sex education, what subject should require parental consent, and what should not be taught.

“It’s something we should have an open discussion about,” he said.

Even if Astorino were elected governor, it would be a challenge to create such standards. The state board of directors, which sets education policy, is independent of the governor; its members are appointed by the state legislature.

Astorino said he didn’t single out Croton-Harmon, but the high school was one of many teaching inappropriate sexual content. He did not contact district officials.

Croton-Harmon Schools parent Kenna Weiner said the focus should be on school shootings rather than sex education.  Rob Astorino, candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, held a press conference on what he calls "radical sexual indoctrination" in New York High Schools at Croton-Harmon High School on June 14, 2022.

The Croton-Harmon School District released a statement in response to Astorino’s appearance. The district said it took several actions a few years ago after some students in the district were involved in an off-campus sexual assault. The district formed a culture of respect task force, including parents and community members, and updated its health program to address issues such as consent and sexual health.

A class discussion involves students being asked to come up with terms related to sexual activity, “some of which describe potentially unhealthy dynamics about sex,” the statement said.

“Individual words and phrases shared by students are not defined within the class; instead, there is a discussion of the general connotation of these terms and the importance of using respectful language around this sensitive subject.

Croton-Harmon Superintendent Stephen Walker said the district is looking to meet the needs of all students.

“We want to have communities in our schools that value all learners and parents, their experiences and their needs,” he said.

Gary Stern is an editor/writer covering K-12 education in the Hudson Valley. Contact him at [email protected] Twitter: @garysternNY. Click here for his latest.

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