Advocates unite to strengthen bill requiring K-12 personal health and safety education in Illinois public schools
For Immediate Release: April 29, 2021
CONTACT: Mary Jane Maharry, [email protected]
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—Advocates for the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health Act (REACH Act), led by Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) and Equality Illinois (EI), worked with the coalition supporting the Illinois Healthy Youth Act to create one bill that requires age-appropriate, comprehensive, and inclusive personal health and safety education for grades K-5 and sexual health education for grades 6-12 for all Illinois public school students. The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill (SB 818), sponsored by Sen. Ram Villivalam, was filed Wednesday, April 28. SB 818 retains the key elements of the REACH Act while strengthening the language in the details of the legislation.
“Combining these two pieces of legislation not only makes sense so that legislators have to vote on just one bill—it was an opportunity to refine the language to benefit Illinois public school students,” said Brigid Leahy, Senior Director of Public Policy for PPIA. “The new bill still requires age and developmentally appropriate education for grades K-12, as well as providing information that is medically accurate and inclusive. SB 818 still focuses on healthy relationships, bullying, abuse and violence prevention and empowering students to make healthy and safe decisions.”
Currently, 30 states require personal health and safety education or sexual health education, but Illinois is not one of them. The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill will require that the experiences and needs of all youth in the school, including disabled students, parenting students, and survivors of interpersonal and sexual violence are addressed. This education will not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
“Illinoisans recognize the need to ensure all public schools affirm and equip students, including LGBTQ students, with the inclusive tools and information they need to build healthy relationships and lead safe and supported lives,” said Myles Brady Davis, Director of Communications at Equality Illinois, the state’s civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Illinoisans. “With the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill, the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives have the bold opportunity to act now to support all students, especially LGBTQ students, in all parts of the state.”
If passed, the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill will require the Illinois State Board of Education to adopt rigorous learning standards. Schools will start teaching according to the standards in 2023, allowing schools adequate time and resources to implement high-quality programs. School districts will maintain control by selecting their curricula and the number of teaching minutes. Parents will retain the right to remove their students from classes.
“Early exposure to personal health and safety education can prevent child sexual abuse. According to research, the median age for reported abuse is 9 years old nationally, but we know abuse is often unreported and likely starts earlier. The Keeping Youth Safe & Healthy Bill can be a prevention tool because it starts at kindergarten and carries through all grades. Illinois’ youth deserve to grow up free of harm and violence.” - Julia Strehlow, Director of Education, Prevention & Policy with Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center.
"Passing the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy bill will allow youth across Illinois to grow and mature with the necessary tools needed to make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being. Access to comprehensive, evidence-based sexual health education and services is a key priority of the statewide Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) plan to end the HIV epidemic in the state by 2030. AFC is thrilled that this critical legislation addresses the inclusion of heavily stigmatized communities, including young people living with or vulnerable to HIV and LGBTQ+ youth."-- Timothy S. Jackson, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation Chicago
“We are pleased to partner on this effort to provide all young people in Illinois information they need both today and into the future. For more than 7 years, we have been working with students, educators and health providers to craft the best policy solution to reduce stigma that exists in our current sexual health education code and provide young people with the full toolbox of knowledge and skills to support a lifetime of responsible and informed decisions, recognizing the needs of all youth, including pregnant and parenting youth, LGBTQIA youth, and – for the first time – collects data statewide about sex education curricula in local schools. This bill serves all youth in Illinois.” - Chelsea Diaz, Advocacy Associate, ACLU of Illinois
# # #
Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) is an independent, nonpartisan, 501(c)4 not-for-profit organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. PPIA engages in educational and electoral activity, including public education campaigns, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy on behalf of commonsense policies that protect and foster the sexual and reproductive health and rights of individuals, families, and communities.