Joint Committee on Education hears testimony on the Healthy Youth Act.
BOSTON — More than 75 individuals testified in person or in writing to the Joint Committee on Education today in support of An Act Relative to Healthy Youth. Parents, young people, educators, health care professionals, and religious leaders from across the state are encouraging the legislature to pass this bill and make comprehensive sexuality education more accessible to Massachusetts students. These advocates join nearly 500 Massachusetts residents who are part of Planned Parenthood’s Sex Ed Matters campaign and signed a petition in support of the bill.
An Act Relative to Healthy Youth would ensure that when public schools decide to provide sexuality education they use a comprehensive, medically-accurate and age-appropriate curriculum. When it comes to relationships and sex, effective sexuality education programs teach the benefits of abstinence and delaying sexual activity while also providing vital information about effective contraception use, prevention of pregnancy and disease, and the communication skills needed to form healthy, respectful relationships. Research shows that providing this kind of medically-accurate, age-appropriate sexuality education gives young people the skills they need to make healthy decisions.
“Research has proven what works when it comes to sexuality education. At Planned Parenthood, we have hands-on experience in the classroom that reinforces that research. Each year, we receive hundreds of questions from middle and high school students, ranging from concrete, factual questions about anatomy to abstract questions about the qualities of a relationship,” said Jen Slonaker, Vice President of Education & Training at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM), in written testimony submitted to the Education Committee. “This bill is in the best interest of our young people by keeping them informed, healthy, and in school.”
Cecile McLane, a Cohasset resident and mother of four, testified in person at the State House today: “As a parent, I’m always focused on how to provide the best education for my children, and as with every other aspect of child rearing, I turn to the experts. When the research shows that providing comprehensive sex education helps young people stay healthy, I believe it. In my heart I know that knowledge is power, and that the more my children understand about their own bodies, the better equipped they will be to make good choices.”
“As an educator, activist and parent, I see An Act Relative to Health Youth as a way to exercise our civic responsibility to the young people of the Commonwealth,” said Jason Zelesky, a Gardner resident, father of two, and Assistant Dean of Students at Clark University in Worcester. “It’s our duty to care. It’s our responsibility to educate. This act is a proactive measure designed to make sexuality education and the concept of sexual health an empowering, affirmative and necessary part of a student’s knowledge-base. This is not controversial. It’s perfectly sensible.”
Last week, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts launched “Sex Ed Matters,” its new online grassroots campaign to support comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education in Massachusetts, focused this year on getting the Healthy Youth Act signed into law.
“With all the research that shows comprehensive sexuality education keeps young people safe and healthy, it is imperative that the state take proactive measures to ensure more students in Massachusetts have this kind of education and information available to them in their schools,” said Marty Walz, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts Chief Executive Officer. “By protecting our youth and passing the Healthy Youth Act, the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Patrick will show they are committed to reducing teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and high school drop-out rates.”
The Joint Committee on Education must vote favorably on the bill before it can be brought to a vote in the State House.
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is the largest freestanding sexual and reproductive health care provider in the state. For over 80 years PPLM has protected and promoted sexual and reproductive health and freedom of choice through clinical services, education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.pplm.org.
Advocacy and Communications Coordinator
May 14, 2013