SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Democratic lawmakers are coming together with advocates to re-introduce a proposal changing sex education requirements in Illinois public schools.
The plan had strong Democratic support in the Senate last year, but COVID-19 cut their effort short.
If approved, the REACH Act (Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health) would require schools teach inclusive and age appropriate sex education classes. This would apply to Illinois students in Kindergarten through senior year of high school.
Deonn Strathman, Director of Community Engagement for Planned Parenthood Illinois, stressed the importance of teaching kids about healthy relationships.
“There are things Kindergartners really need to learn,” said Strathman. “They need to learn about things like safe touch and un-safe touch. They need to learn names of body parts and they need to learn how to be a good friend. We word these things as good friends but really we’re talking about things like consent and respecting boundaries.”
Strathman added that if children are better educated, it could help prevent sexual assault later on in life.
Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) explained that while the legislation would require those classes, school boards and families would have decision-making powers in the process.
“How that gets done, is up to the local school boards,” said Willis. “They may have outside speakers come in, they may do short little lessons, they may have it be part of a health class.”
The idea would allow schools to introduce these classes in phases, giving time and resources to create the programs. Rep. Willis said the bill would ensure classes would not discriminate based on sex, race, ethnicity, and disability, among others.
As of right now, the sponsors plan to file the bill before they return to Springfield.