Illlinois Sex Ed to Cover Birth Control: Abstinence Will Be City Classes' Focus
April 28, 2006
In a move hailed by adolescent health advocates, the Chicago Board of Education said Wednesday it will require students in the sixth grade and above to take a sex education course that covers birth control starting next year. "It's a huge victory," said Jonathan Stacks, who manages the Illinois Campaign for Responsible Sex Education.
Though the new curriculum has yet to be drafted, it will emphasize abstinence as the "expected norm" for preventing STDs, including HIV, and unintended pregnancy. It must also include instruction on contraception. The new program, called Family Life and Comprehensive Sexual Health Education, will be designed by a curriculum committee and provide "age-appropriate and medically accurate information concerning the emotional, psychological, physiological, hygienic, and social responsibility aspects of family life." Parents who object to the lessons can opt their child out of the course.
Board President Michael Scott said the decision is long overdue, particularly in light of data showing that half of all city public high school students are sexually active and that 6,000 babies were born to Chicago teens in 2003. A survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health found that teachers averaged only 12 hours of sex education per school per year and around 15 percent of sex education classes in state schools did not teach the basics of contraception, pregnancy, and childbirth.
Julie Olson, a registered nurse and member of the Illinois Abstinence Coalition, said abstinence should not be overlooked in the program's design. Abstinence-only programs have been effective in preventing teen pregnancy, she said, and have served to counter peer pressure and sexual messages in the media.
Scott told Olson her view would be represented when administrators finalize the policy and curriculum, but added that "the policies will be realistic based on [teen] practices."
04.27.2006; David Mendell