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Critics say Illinois' new sex ed guidelines promote abortion, sexualize students

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his first budget address to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate at the Illinois State Capitol on February 20, 2019, in Springfield, Illinois. |

Conservatives are criticizing the new sex education curriculum approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, alleging that it will expose children to “sexually charged” content with an ideological agenda.

Pritzker, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 818 into law on Aug. 20. The legislation, in part, calls for the implementation of comprehensive personal health and safety and comprehensive sexual health education curriculum that aligns with the National Sex Education Standards (NSES).

In a statement, Pritzker praised the bill for “modernizing our sex education standards.” He predicted that the new curriculum “will help keep our children safe and ensure important lessons like consent and internet safety are taught in classrooms.”

Senate Bill 818 passed the Illinois House of Representatives in May by a vote of 60-48, with three Democrats joining all Republicans in opposing the measure. The bill passed the Illinois Senate by a vote of 37-18. Four Democrats abstained from the vote while all remaining Democrats supported it as all Republicans opposed it.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, a Republican, blasted the bill as "not age-appropriate," according to NPR.

“The goal of sex education is to help young people grow into healthier sexual relationships and healthier adults,” McCombie was quoted as saying. “[The bill] is not age appropriate. It is sexually charged.”

NPR Illinois reports that a handful of Democrats have voiced concern that the new standards include material that is too explicit for elementary and middle school students. 

Rep. Fred Crespo, a Democrat who abstained from voting on the bill, reportedly took issue with the fact that schools must either align their curriculums with the NSES guidelines or not teach sex education at all. 

“The thing that bothers me the most is that, I know it’s permissive, but we’re telling schools that if you don't use these standards you cannot teach sex ed,” Crespo was quoted as saying. “That concerns me a bit because I think we do need sex ed at our schools.”

Molly Malone, the assistant director of legislative affairs for the Illinois Pro-Family Alliance, expressed concern that the bill “will promote abortion, the LGBT lifestyle, and will sexualize students.”

According to Malone, the bill could “cause discrimination against students and their parents who believe that homosexual and transgender lifestyles are wrong and that abstinence until marriage occurs is spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally the safest, healthiest choice for sexual activity.”

She told the Illinois Baptist news journal that “those children and parents who choose to believe what Scripture teaches about sexuality will be ostracized and labeled as bigots in their own schools." 

The National Sex Education Standards call for students in kindergarten through second grade to “define gender, gender identity, and gender-role stereotypes” and “discuss the range of ways people express their gender and how gender-role stereotypes may limit behavior.”

The curriculum, which is endorsed by LGBT advocacy groups GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign as well as abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood, also informs young students about “different kinds of families,” including those with “cohabitating” and “same-gender” parents.

Students in third through fifth grades will learn about masturbation as well as “the role hormones play in the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional changes during adolescence and the potential role of hormone blockers on young people who identify as transgender.”

Additionally, students will be expected to “distinguish between sex assigned at birth and gender identity and explain how they may or may not differ,” “define and explain differences between cisgender, transgender, gender nonbinary, gender expansive and gender identity.”

The curriculum teaches students in this age group that “gender expression and gender identity exist along a spectrum.”

While the curriculum for students in grades six through eight continues the discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, it also introduces them to abortion as one of several “pregnancy options” alongside parenting and adoption. Students in this age group can also expect lessons on the impacts of “racism and intersectionality” on sexual health. 

Students in grades nine and 10 are asked to “define reproductive justice and explain its history and how it relates to sexual health.” Juniors and seniors in high school will be exposed to a curriculum that seeks to “analyze cultural and social factors (e.g. sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism, ableism, classism) that can influence decisions regarding sexual behaviors.” 

Senate Bill 818 defines a “complete” sex education curriculum as one that includes “information on consent and healthy relationships, anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent sexual development, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and identity, sexual health, and interpersonal violence.” It lays out specific criteria that all “classes that teach comprehensive personal health and safety and comprehensive sexual health education” must satisfy.

“Course material and instruction shall provide information about local resources where students can obtain additional information and confidential services related to parenting, bullying, interpersonal violence, sexual violence, suicide prevention, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, substance abuse, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and other related issues,” the bill states. 

The bill also suggests that sex education curriculum in Illinois schools will be required to provide information about abortion.

“Course material and instruction may not deliberately withhold life-saving information about culturally appropriate health care and services, including reproductive health services, hormone therapy, and FDA-approved treatments and options, including, but not limited to, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PeP).”

The legislation maintains that “No student shall be required to take or participate in any class or course in comprehensive personal health and safety and comprehensive sexual health education." Parents are allowed to opt their children out of the curriculum. 

In June, a mother made headlines after she spoke out against the sex education guidelines during a school board meeting in District 87. She feared that forcing schools to adopt the NSES standards “destroys local control over curriculum." She argued that the NSES guidelines "force" students to learn about masturbation, anal sex and transgender ideology before their teenage years."

Illinois is not the only state pushing comprehensive sex education. Last year, Washington voters upheld a law requiring schools to teach comprehensive sex education, defeating a referendum that sought to reverse a law approved by the state legislature mandating such curriculum in schools. The United Nations has also embraced comprehensive sex education, publishing guidance to expose children to the curriculum inside and outside the school setting.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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