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Many Illinois schools opting out of National Sex Education Standards

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Thursday, August 4, 2022  |  Article  |  AJ Gersh

— A new law requires the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to adopt National Sex Education Standards this upcoming school year.

 

However, not all schools are required to adopt the new curriculum. Districts and parents are able to opt-out of the National Sex Education Standards.

 

In accordance with the National Sex Education Standards, ISBE says elementary schoolers will learn about consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships. Middle schoolers will learn about dating violence prevention and sexual harassment. High schoolers would learn more about their bodies, pregnancy, and sexual health.

 

Kathleen Willis, a Democrat representing District 77 near Chicago, was one of the lawmakers who crafted the bill. She said that it is all about "age-appropriate" education.

 

"You're not teaching kindergarteners about the sex act, you're teaching kindergarteners about good relationship building, about not being bullied by others, not being forced into a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable," Rep. Willis said. "I think those conversations as soon as a child is able to comprehend is a good conversation to have."

 

Willis said most of the school districts in her area are adopting the National Sex Education Standards.

 

Republican Illinois State Representative Adam Niemerg, whose district covers the Effingham area, said most of the schools in his district are opting out of the program. He's also urging all school districts to do the same.

 

"These five-year-olds, these eight-year-olds, should be focusing on learning, on playing basketball, on enjoying their summers - not on sexual identity politics at this particular point in their life," Rep. Niemerg said.

 

The ongoing debate: should sex education be left to the parents? Lawmakers are split.

 

"I believe its the parents' obligation to have those conversations with their children at the proper age," Niemerg said. "It's not about the school district's purview to have those conversations with those kids when the parents are the parents and they should teach those children right or wrong. There can be an argument made about indoctrination instead of education when it comes to our youth in schools in the state of Illinois."

 

Willis said this curriculum is not indoctrinating the state's youth and some kids don't have parents to teach them about important topics.

 

"Not everybody has a parent that's willing to have those conversations and talk to them," Willis said. "We hope most children do, but not everybody does and unfortunately that's when the schools have to step up and take care of that kind of stuff that many parents would say, 'That's the role of the parent,' and, in your household, I hope you're doing it if that's what you think is your role as a parent. But not every child has that ability to go to a parent."

 

Decatur Public Schools will be adhering to the national standards.

 

When asked about the upcoming curriculum in Springfield, District 186 sent us the following statement:

 

As a District, we have reviewed the National Sex Education Standards that have been adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education. Springfield Public Schools District 186 will continue to offer comprehensive health, safety and sexual health education as part of the K-12 curriculum as per school code, ILCS 110/3.

District 186 is currently reviewing the curriculum resources provided by the Illinois State Board of Education to determine how these resources can be integrated into the comprehensive personal health, safety and sexual health education curriculum for District 186 schools. Per law, sex education in Illinois is optional for students and parents may choose to opt their student out of instruction related to these topics. We will continue the practice that allows families to opt their student(s) out of sexual health education and provide other curriculum options.

District 186 recognizes how complex and sensitive this topic can be and we want to assure our community that we are doing everything in our power to review and make decisions that will best suit our community’s needs and include parental choice.