The Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health (REACH) Act requires comprehensive, inclusive, and age-appropriate personal health and safety education to be taught in public schools in grades K-12
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – At a press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 26, Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) announced its support for the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health (REACH) Act which mandates comprehensive, inclusive and age-appropriate personal health and safety education for K-12 public schools in Illinois. Co-sponsors of the bill are Senator Ram Villivalam (D-8) and Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-77). If passed, the REACH Act will be phased in, allowing schools adequate time and resources to implement quality programs. School districts will maintain control by selecting the curriculum and number of minutes for teaching. Parents will also retain the right to remove their child from sex education classes.
“PPIL supports the REACH Act because students who don’t receive age-appropriate, comprehensive, and inclusive sexual health education are at risk of harm,” said PPIL President and CEO Jennifer Welch. “Research has shown that the long-term impacts of comprehensive sexual education include lower sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy rate. Plus the REACH Act provides guidance for youth of all ages to understand and develop healthy relationships which I think we can agree is a wonderful goal.”
The REACH Act outlines age appropriate curriculum as:
- Grades K-2: instruction focuses on personal safety, identifying trusted adults who children can rely on for guidance and support, and respecting others.
- Grades 3-5: instruction continues to focus on personal safety and healthy relationships, discusses bullying, harassment, and abuse and covers topics such as anatomy, puberty, hygiene, body image, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
- Grades 6-12: instruction builds on prior instruction about healthy relationships by covering issues like consent, sexual harassment, abuse, and interpersonal violence, provides additional information on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and covers the benefits of abstinence, behavioral changes, barrier methods like condoms, medication, contraception, and sexually transmitted infection prevention measures.
“In recent years, the news has been filled with reporting on child sex abuse scandals, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault on college campuses, and bullying of LGBTQ students and people of color,” said Senator Villivalam (D-8). “There is urgency to act now to ensure all students in Illinois receive the age appropriate education necessary to be safe and healthy. Senate Bill 2762 will do just that.”
“Youth across Illinois, especially those in grades 6-12, want information about healthy relationships, abuse and violence prevention, and other critical issues they face in their daily lives,” stated Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-77). “When schools fail to offer this kind of education, their students are denied the opportunity to learn critical information to lead healthy, safe lives.”
Currently, 29 states mandate sex education, of which Illinois is not one. The REACH Act requires sex education to address experiences and needs of all youth in the school, including pupils with disabilities; to not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, nation origin, disability, religion, gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation; and to allow instructors to answer questions initiated by a student that are related to and consistent with the material of the course.
The REACH ACT is also supported by AAUW Illinois, ALPHAS (African-American Lesbian Professionals Having A Say), Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, Comprehensive Sex Ed Now, Equality Illinois, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Illinois Public Health Association, Lambda Legal, National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter, Peer Health Exchange, Peoria Proud, PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois, Phoenix Center, Prairie Pride Coalition, Rainbow Café, Resilience
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"As a young queer person, I know that my schools could have done better when it came to teaching about sexual health, personal safety, and how to build healthy relationships. Further, while talking to my peers, I’ve heard about how many LGBTQ students feel left out or simply aren’t receiving any instruction at all. When school districts ignore the health and wellness needs of all students, we are left to figure things out on our own. This isn’t right,” explained Tre Graham, youth representative of the Rainbow Café LGBTQ Youth Center in Carbondale.
“Stakeholders from across Illinois recognize the need to ensure public schools affirm and equip all students with the inclusive tools and information they need to build healthy relationships and lead safe and supported lives,” said Mike Ziri, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, the state’s civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Illinoisans. “The REACH Act is the result of months of outreach and engagement with partners across the state, including with LGBTQ students in Carbondale and Springfield and more than 30 community organizations. Advocates want Illinois to act now to support all students in all parts of the state, and the REACH Act does that.”