Standards for comprehensive sexual health education curriculum in grades 6 through 12 in public schools in Illinois will be updated and expanded under legislation introduced this week. The Healthy Youth Act (HB 5012 and SB 3788) builds upon the current requirement for sexual health education in Illinois so that it includes instruction that is also culturally and linguistically appropriate and adapted for students with disabilities and non-English speaking students. If sexual health education courses are taught in grades 5 and under, they must be age-appropriate, medically accurate, evidence-based or evidence-informed, and culturally, developmentally, and linguistically appropriate. The Act will also ensure that sexual health education in Illinois is inclusive and affirming of communities historically stigmatized or excluded including LGBTQIA and pregnant or parenting youth.
“As a former sexual health educator, I know it is critical that young people receive a full toolbox of knowledge and skills to reduce harm and support overall health and well-being now and for their entire lives. I look forward to passing the Healthy Youth Act to update and expand Illinois sexual health education standards,” said State Senator Celina Villanueva, who will sponsor the bill in the Illinois Senate.
The Healthy Youth Act removes outdated language and builds on the current standards for health and sexual health education courses by including: pregnancy and reproduction; gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation; puberty, growth, and adolescent development; anatomy and physiology; healthy relationships and friendships; healthy decision-making; and personal safety.
“As a legislator, assuring that young people have all the tools to make healthy decisions has been a priority for me,” added State Representative Camille Lily who will sponsor the measure in the Illinois House. “Seven years ago, we updated this law. But as times and understanding of what young people need evolves, we must keep pace. The Healthy Youth Act builds on our efforts and will serve students across the State of Illinois.”
“The Healthy Youth Act will raise the standard for what youth across our state are taught, and will provide them with a full, modern toolbox of knowledge. It will educate students with the information that can combat myths and misinformation that often puts them at risk, and instead prepares them for a safe and healthy life. We are proud to be a part of this coalition to pass this legislation this year,” said Khadine Bennett, Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Director, ACLU of Illinois.
“The Healthy Youth Act embodies our primary goals at Comprehensive Sex Ed Now. We love that the bill would set the precedent for a future of high-quality comprehensive sex education that is accessible to all. Supporting this bill has been such an amazing opportunity and we look forward to working with them in the future,” said Taylor Holt of Comprehensive Sex Ed Now.
“Passing the Healthy Youth Act will allow youth across Illinois to grow and mature with the knowledge and tools to live their best lives. We are thrilled that this legislation addresses inclusion of heavily stigmatized communities, including young people living with or vulnerable to HIV. It’s been a pleasure to work with the coalition on this measure thus far and we look forward to this bill becoming law this year,” said Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
The supporting organizations for this legislation include: American Association of University Women, ACLU of Illinois, ACLU of Illinois – Champaign Chapter, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Affinity Community Services, Chicago Abortion Fund, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, Chicago Women’s Health Center, Comprehensive Sex Ed Now, EverThrive Illinois, Girls Inc. of Chicago, Howard Brown Health Center, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Illinois National Organization for Women, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance (a program of the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago), Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Council of Jewish Women – North Shore, Peer Health Exchange, Pride Action Tank, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Health, Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates), Teen Health Council, UIC – Urban Medicine Program, and YWCA Evanston/Northshore.