The St. Charles District 303 School Board is voicing its opposition to a bill before the Illinois Senate that would require Illinois public schools to teach “age appropriate” sex education beginning in kindergarten.
“Our view was to keep this type of education optional or stay within a local control type of situation,” St. Charles School Board President Heidi Fairgrieve said at Monday’s school board meeting.
As amended, House Bill 5188 would require all public school districts to provide instructional content from the National Sex Education Standards but will allow for any individual student or their parent to opt out.
“No student shall be required to take or participate in any class or course in comprehensive personal health and safety and comprehensive sexual health education,” the amendment to the bill states. “A student’s parent or guardian may opt the student out of comprehensive personal health and safety and comprehensive sexual health education by submitting the request in writing.”
The Illinois Association of School Boards also has opposed the amendment.
“IASB has worked in good faith with stakeholders on sex ed standards and curriculum for several years,” it said in a statement on its website. “Previous sex ed bills focused on content of curriculum while still preserving local control around the decision to offer sex ed to all students. HB 5188 removes that local option and MANDATES the national sex ed curriculum standards for all schools.”
District 303 Superintendent Paul Gordon said the Large Unit District Association, which represents large unit districts in the state such as St. Charles School District 303, has come out against the amendment.
Unit districts are those that educate students in pre-K through grade 12, and large is defined as enrollments of at least 3,500 students.
The curriculum standards were set in Senate Bill 818, which was signed into law last year as the framework for public schools to adopt sexual education curriculum. That law allowed Illinois school districts to opt out, and many of them did, including District 303.
“Just as a data point, 70% of school districts have opted out of implementing [the standards] for this school year,” Gordon said. “We are trying to make sure that our legislators know where actual school districts are standing on this issue and where different associations stand on this issue.”
During a July 25 special St. Charles school board meeting, Gordon said the district follows the Illinois state standards for comprehensive health education and will continue to do that.
“A really important aspect of the board’s work is around the curriculum,” he said. “The board adopts all of our curriculum.”
Gordon said if the district adopted any of the new curriculum for middle school and high school students, it would have to first do a comprehensive review of the standards.
“That will take many months for us to see if there are aspects that make some sense or not,” he said.