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Illinois sex ed classes to teach gender expression as early as K-2 starting next school year

Curriculum will align with the National Sex Education Standards, including study of gender expression in grades K-2 and anatomy, gender identity and sexual orientation in grades 3-5.

Updated: August 23, 2021 - 10:57pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Starting next school year, schools in Illinois teaching sexual education lessons will start as early as kindergarten.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed Senate Bill 818, which his office said will modernize sex education standards with age-appropriate content for grades K-12.

The measure requires the Illinois State Board of Education to provide the standards for schools that teach sex education by August 2022. Schools don't need to adopt the standards unless they teach sex ed. Parents will be able to opt their children out.

The law states the curriculum will align with and be updated alongside the National Sex Education Standards. Those standards are cultivated in part by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, or SIECUS. That group has the tag line "Sex Ed for Social Change."

Among the standards for grades K-2 are defining gender expression, different kinds of families and types of sexual abuse. Grades 3-5 go into anatomy, gender identity and sexual orientation. Grades 6-8 will learn about different types of sex, different types of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Grade 9-10 will learn about the history of "reproductive justice." Grades 11-12 will learn about power and privilege within sexual relationships.

Before the measure passed in May, state Rep. Avery Bourn (R-Raymond) said it was a mistake to align the curriculum with the National Sex Education Standards from non-government groups.

"We are delegating all authority to an unaccountable national group that can change these standards at any given moment with no check at the state level or the school level," Bourne said.

Before the legislation was signed into law, parents' rights group Awake Illinois founder Shannon Adcock said it goes too far.

"On paper it sounds so noble, but in practice it's extremely worrisome and when you look at the materials that has been proposed, it is, from parents'perspective, grooming," Adcock said. "It is sexual grooming of children."

Planned Parenthood of Illinois applauded the measure. The organization said the law will provide medically accurate personal health and safety education.

"Illinois schools will now be equipped to take an active role in preventing bullying, harassment, abuse, sexual violence, and interpersonal violence, which helps ensure all Illinois students can thrive," Planned Parenthood Illinois Action President and CEO Jennifer Welch said. "And students will learn about healthy relationships and the experiences and needs of all students, including the LGBTQ+ community and those with disabilities, which promotes acceptance and understanding."

The ALCU of Illinois also praised the measure.

"Years after changing Illinois law so that sexual health education is not simply abstinence-only, we are pleased that this new law will help students who have been stigmatized and or made invisible in these courses, such as LGBTQIA+ students and pregnant and parenting students, feel affirmed and seen in their classrooms," ACLU of Illinois Director of Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Khadine Bennett said.

The measure passed the House with the minimum 60 votes necessary for passage. Eight House Democrats were listed as not voting. Four Democrats in the Illinois Senate were also listed as not voting.