New Jersey’s youth deserve better – we must educate to prevent teen pregnancies, bullying and assault
National Organization for Women of New Jersey (NOW-NJ) is alarmed to hear the GOP Gubernatorial candidate double down and question the need for public schools to teach gender identity and sexual orientation as part of sexual health education. In 2019, the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that New Jersey is one of only nine states that promotes LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. CAP’s 2018 report attributed New Jersey’s lowest-in-the-nation teen pregnancy rate, 11% lower than the national average, to the state’s comprehensive sex education curriculum.
Not teaching about sexuality and denying LGBTQ young people the information and tools they need to stay healthy, can lead to devastating outcomes. According to the CDC, 29% of gay or lesbian youth and 31% of bisexual youth have been bullied on school property. Furthermore, campus sexual assault has been widely linked to a lack of consent-based comprehensive sex education in pre-college or K-12 settings. RAINN reports that 23.1% of female and 5.4% of male undergraduates experience rape or sexual assault. It should come as no surprise that the groups at highest risk are female, LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming students. Researchers emphasize that the curriculum needs to start at an early age, in elementary school.
Anjali Mehrotra, President of NOW-NJ points out, “Adolescents today have a variety of easily accessible information about sex and sexuality from sources such as the internet, media and peers. Often this information is inconsistent, confusing, or misleading, Even information presented by family members can be incomplete. Therefore, it is imperative that trained education professionals be tasked with aligning that messaging and providing the correct information that young people need in order to engage in positive, healthy relationships.”
NOW-NJ recognizes that comprehensive sex education or the lack thereof has real world consequences for our teens and youth. Whether it be bullying, an unwanted pregnancy or a horrific sexual assault, all can cause stigma and trauma and change lives forever. Given that we have the chance to improve outcomes for these scenarios by mandating a LGBTQ inclusive, consent-based curriculum that promotes healthy relationships, to advocate otherwise is simply irresponsible.
About National Organization for Women of New Jersey (NOW-NJ)
The purpose of NOW-NJ is to take action through intersectional, anti-racist grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.
For more information about NOW New Jersey and NOW NJ PAC, please visit www.nownj.org.
Download the press release here.