When I was in high school my health teacher taught us some pretty disturbing things about sex, like that having frequent sex can cause cervical cancer and that condoms don’t really work. Of course, I now know that these things aren’t true – but it took me a few years to get the facts straightened out. At least kids in Illinois won’t be subjected to this sort of misinformation thanks to a new bill which will soon be signed into law.
The bill, HB 2675, which was passed last spring and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, would take effect on January 1st. The law requires that all sex education courses be based on factual information. It also completely bans abstinence-only sex education. This means schools offering sex education courses must mention STDs and prevention methods.
But of course there are some loopholes.
Only schools offering sex education are required to follow the new law. A 2008 study by the University of Chicago found that 93% of 890 Illinois school districts do offer sex education. Since there is no stipulation in the law that all schools must offer sex education classes, kids in the remaining school districts could be left in the dark.
Then there is the fact that the law only stipulates that sex education courses mention STDs and prevention. There are no requirements about how much emphasis must be put on prevention methods nor are there guidelines for what kids should be taught. A teacher could, for example, simply mention that condoms prevent pregnancy but give absolutely no instruction on how to use a condom properly.
Throughout the US (and abroad), comprehensive sex education has been very effective in reducing teen pregnancy rates as well as STD incidences. California, for example, credits their sex-ed laws for helping the state’s teen pregnancy rate drop by 60% over the course of 20 years.
It is unclear as to whether the new sex-ed law will make a difference in reducing Illinois’s teen pregnancy and STD rates. However, it is obviously a step in the right direction. This in itself should be considered a victory, especially considering the fact that sex education is declining with fewer schools teaching the recommended topics.