Rockford Parent.com (08.14.2013)
Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.) announced he would sign into law a Senate-passed bill that would require all Illinois school districts that offered sex education to include facts on birth control and STDs in addition to abstinence-only information. Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) stated the bill aimed to reduce incidence of STDs and unwanted pregnancies among young people. State data indicated that 35 percent of all chlamydia cases and approximately one-third of gonorrhea cases reported in 2011 occurred among people ages 15–19.
The new law’s potential effect on actual practice was unclear. Current Illinois law required abstinence-only sex education and allowed school districts to opt out of teaching sex education; the new regulation still would allow systems to opt out of teaching sex education and would allow parents to hold their children out of sex education classes. The Illinois Board of Education did not track how many of the state’s 860 public school districts taught sex education or monitor the content of existing curricula. However, a 2008 University of Chicago study indicated that 93 percent of public school districts taught sex education and approximately 65 percent of sex education teachers used a curriculum considered “comprehensive” by researchers.
Opponents of the new law included the Chicago-based Abstinence and Marriage Education Partnership, which marketed abstinence-based curricula to school districts. Executive Director Scott Phelps stated that the organization’s curricula did teach what contraception was, but did not explain how to use contraception.
The Cairo public school superintendent favored the new law and stated that comprehensive sex education was favorably affecting Alexander County birth rates, which had been the highest in Illinois, with teen mothers accounting for 21.9 percent of all births in 2009. Cairo public school students took a sex education class in the seventh grade and ninth grades.