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New York

Church policy could complicate city's new sex ed requirements

Public schools located in former Catholic school buildings will have to find another place to teach newly required sex education. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott surprised principals last night with the news that sex education will be mandatory in middle and high schools starting this year—a decision the New York Civil Liberties Union called "a great step forward for students' health." For schools that operate in space leased from the Archdiocese of New York, the new requirement could induce a scheduling headache. A Department of Education spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, confirmed that those schools would have to conduct the sex education lessons off-site in accordance with the archdiocese's longstanding policy prohibiting sex education in space that it owns. As Catholic schools have lost students in recent years, the archdiocese has closed dozens of schools, including 27 this year. The city has then rented some of those buildings to relieve its own space crunch. Last year, when the city decided to rent the former Saint Michael’s Academy to house the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, it noted that students would have to return to the school's previous site for sex education. Fran Davies, education spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said today that church officials were still researching the issue. Most public schools housed in rented former Catholic school space are elementary schools, which are not affected by the new requirement. But at least a few middle and high schools, like West Brooklyn Community High School and El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Williamsburg, will have to make other plans if they haven't already.