Advocates Support Bill Requiring K-12 Personal Health Education in Illinois Public Schools

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, on Wednesday, a group of advocates announce their 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.

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 inter-personal 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), ANA-Illinois, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Children’s AdvocacyCenter, Comprehensive Sex Ed Now, Equality Illinois, Illinois Association of School Nurses, 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