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Gov. Pritzker Signs Two Bills Updating Sex Education Standards in K-12 Schools

Press Release - Friday, August 20, 2021

SPRINGFIELD — Building on efforts to modernize and strengthen Illinois' education system, Governor JB Pritzker signed two bills today that update the state's sex education standards in K-12 schools. The voluntary standards will emphasize health, safety, and inclusivity with age-appropriate resources. The standards do not need to be adopted in school districts that do not provide comprehensive sexual health education and parents may choose to opt their children out.

"Modernizing our sex education standards will help keep our children safe and ensure important lessons like consent and internet safety are taught in classrooms," said Governor JB Pritzker. "By working together, we'll continue to strengthen our education system and deliver the bright future our kids deserve."

Senate Bill 818 brings Illinois' sexual health education into the 21st century by adding new personal health and safety education standards in kindergarten through 5th grade, and making comprehensive health education more inclusive in grades 6 through 12.  School districts do not have to adopt the voluntary standards unless they are teaching comprehensive sexual health education, and parents can choose to opt out.

Course material and instruction will help students learn about concepts like consent and will develop self-advocacy skills for effective communication with parents or guardians, health and social service professionals, other trusted adults, and peers about health and relationships.

The Illinois State Board of Education will develop and adopt these new voluntary learning standards in consultation with stakeholders, including parents, sexual health and violence prevention experts, health care providers, and education advocates. They will make these free resources available online no later than August 1, 2022.

SB 818 takes effect immediately.

"No student should feel stigmatized or excluded in the classroom," said State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). "This legislation puts forth guidelines for an inclusive, culturally competent curriculum to keep students safe and healthy."

"As a legislator, assuring that young people have all the tools to make healthy decisions has been a priority for me," said State Representative Camille Lilly (D-Chicago). "Seven years ago when we fought to move sexual health education in Illinois beyond abstinence-only education, we knew there was more work to be done. Today marks another step in our efforts to ensure that young people receive a full toolbox of knowledge and skills to reduce harm and support overall health for their entire lives. I thank all those who have worked on the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act as well as all those who voted to pass it.  We know that the need of young people evolves, we must keep pace."

House Bill 24 requires classes that teach sex education to include an age-appropriate discussion regarding sexting. The discussion will include:

• information regarding the possible consequences of sharing or forwarding sexually explicit or suggestive content
• the identification of situations in which bullying or harassment may result as a consequence of sexting
• the potential for long-term legal, social, academic, and other consequences from possessing sexual content,
• the importance of internet safety,
• the identification of people who could be of assistance on this issue to students
• and the development of strategies to resist peer pressure.

HB 24 takes effect immediately.

"Technology has grown a lot in the last decade, and our education needs to adapt as well," said State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford). "This new law requires those schools that teach sex education to include a lesson on sexting, so students can learn about the real-life consequences of the virtual act."

"With the evolution of technology and the increasing access for our children, it is vital that they understand the consequences of sexting. And now they will," said State Representative Maurice West (D-Rockford). "I want to thank Governor Pritzker and my colleagues in the General Assembly for their support in passing this important legislation."

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