Bill Updating Sex Education Standards In Illinois Schools Advances

ILLINOIS — An Illinois House committee advanced a bill that would mandate all public school districts to provide a comprehensive curriculum on sex education for all grades.

If the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health Act, or the REACH Act, becomes law, Illinois would join 30 other states that require sex education.

“This whole idea came about because students were reaching out and asking for this in their curriculum,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Willis, (D-Addison) during a virtual hearing.

The bill calls for developing three curricula. For students in kindergarten through second grade, it would focus on personal safety and identifying trusted adults. For grades 3-5, the focus would be on personal safety, healthy relationships, bullying prevention anatomy, puberty and sexual orientation.

In grades 6-12, the curriculum would include instruction on sexual harassment, the benefits of abstinence, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted disease prevention.

“The state board will come up with the standards, but the actual curriculum will be up to the local control and that is really important,” said Willis.

The bill allows parents to opt-out if they don’t want their children to receive the instruction.

Julia Strehlow, a social worker with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, said it is important to educate children on sexuality and abuse at an early age.

“Sexual abuse has a significant lasting impact on the mental health and overall well-being of the child victim and their family, costing close to $300,000 per individual throughout their lifetime, so we must start early to stop it,” Strehlow said.

Ralph Rivera, representing Illinois Right to Life Action and Pro-Family Alliance, said the bill is not age-appropriate and promotes abortion.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said she’s concerned the legislation is being rushed.

“This is a really drastic departure from our current sex education requirements, and I think it deserves a much longer and more in-depth hearing than what we’ve been able to have today,” Bourne said.

The Elementary ad Secondary Education Committee advanced the bill to the full House, but will likely return to consider amendments that have not yet been drafted.

The Center Square – Kevin Bessler

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.