The City’s recent decision to mandate sex education was the main topic at Tuesday night’s Community Education Council 24 meeting at P.S. 58 in Maspeth.
The council held its monthly meeting to discuss the pros and cons of teaching sex education as early as elementary school and to vote on a resolution stating that schools should be allowed to decide if they want to teach sex education in the 6 or 7 grades. That goes against the Department of Education’s (DOE) new mandate that schools must teach sex education in either the 6 or 7 grade.
Nick Comaianni, who was re-elected president of the council in the first part of their meeting, is strongly against teaching sex education at that age. He said he believes that he should get to choose when his children learn about sex education instead of the DOE deciding what grade is appropriate.
“My child still sleeps with me in bed when he’s scared and I’m going to have a detailed sexual talk with him about vaginas and penises? No I’m not,” Comaianni said. “It should be age appropriate.”
Comaianni later added that just because a school in another district wants sex education does not mean that the DOE should force every school to follow suit. He believes that every district is different and sex education should be taught should be based on need.
“Different people want different things, this is why the districts were formed,” Comaianni said.
Jeanne Forster, the Treasurer of the council, took the other side of the argument, saying that this kind of information should not be withheld from students. She also said that people always use the “When I was a kid” argument, but fail to realize that times are a lot different now as kids are exposed to explicit content at an earlier age.
CEC member Samantha Papaccio, along with Comaianni, both feel that Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott passed the mandate without consulting parents or giving them enough time to review the curriculum children would learn in class.
As the council read the resolution before voting on it, residents including Joann Berger, President of the Parent Teacher association at I.S 73 in Maspeth, shouted out in anger saying that the parents wanted to know more about the resolution before the council voted on it. Comaianni stressed that she should wait until the public forum section of the meeting to speak, but Berger repeatedly asked to postpone the vote until their next meeting in October.
“I don’t think that they’re hearing from a large number of parents that they say they’re representing,” Berger said. “There are over ten thousand 6, 7 and 8 graders and I’m sure they didn’t get phone calls from 10,000 parents.”
In response, Comaianni said that in the eight years he’s been in the council, their bylaws have always been the same – the CEC notifies parents about 10 days before they vote on anything controversial. He also reminded Berger that this resolution is to let individual school leaders choose if they want sex education.
After hearing Berger’s concerns, CEC member Brian Rafferty motioned to withhold the vote until next month’s meeting. However, the council voted 5-4 not to postpone the vote on the resolution. It then voted 7-1 to pass the resolution, with Forster abstaining and Rafferty dissenting.
At the end of the meeting, Berger said that while she was unhappy with the way the vote was handled, she believes that both parents and children should be involved when dealing with sex education.
“It should be a decision made amongst the families, but we have to listen to the children too, “Berger said.
By Luis Gronda