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Chicago Public Schools Expand Sex Education

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) passed a sex education mandate on February 27, 2013, which follows the National Sexuality Education Standards, outlining age-appropriate content for each grade level.[1] The new mandate, to be implemented in 2016, requires a set amount of time to be spent on sex education in every grade. The expanded requirements will affect approximately the 431,000 students who comprise the third largest public school system in country.[2] CPS’ sex education program includes an “opt-out” provision for parents who do not want their child to participate in the program.

The new CPS sexual health education policy includes provisions for teaching kindergartners and first graders about anatomy, healthy relationships, and personal safety; teaching second and third graders about growth and development; teaching fourth graders about the physical, social, and emotional aspects of puberty, as well as the causes of HIV transmission; and as age-appropriate, teaching fifth – twelfth graders about human reproduction, healthy decision-making, bullying, abstinence, and contraception.

Until now, the sex education curriculum in CPS had not required that content be inclusive of all students, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  In contrast, the National Sexuality Education Standards include content that educate students on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The school board stated that it is an effort to “bring awareness, promote tolerance and prevent bullying.”[3]

In announcing the new policy, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS Chief Executive Officer, said; “It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors, and relationships. … By implementing a new sexual health education policy, we will be helping them to build a foundation of knowledge that can guide them not just in the preadolescent and adolescent years, but throughout their lives.”[4]

Public health experts agree that the sex education mandate is necessary for the youth of Chicago. “Teenagers made up more than a third of all Chicago gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in 2011 and human-immunodeficiency-virus cases in the city have risen 43% among teens since 2000,” said Dr. Stephanie Whyte, Chief Health Officer for CPS.[5] Dr. Whyte further elaborated, adding; “more than 25% of students in Chicago say they’ve never been taught about HIV, while a majority of CPS high school students report that they have had sexual intercourse—12% reported having sexual intercourse before age 13.”[6]


[1]“Chicago Board of Education to Consider Proposed New Health Education Policy,” Chicago Public Schools, February 25, 2013, accessed March 25, 2013, http://www.cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/PR1_2_25_2013.aspx.

[2]Mohney, Gillian. “Chicago Passes Sex-Ed for Kindergartners,” ABC News, February 28, 2013, accessed March 19, 2013, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/02/28/chicago-passes-sex-ed-for-kindergartners/.

[3]Mohney, Gillian. “Chicago Passes Sex-Ed for Kindergartners,” ABC News, February 28, 2013, accessed March 19, 2013, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/02/28/chicago-passes-sex-ed-for-kindergartners/.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Cox, Ted. “CPS Expands Sex Education to Curb Rampant Teen Infections,” DNAinfo, February 27, 2013, accessed March 25, 2013, http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130227/chicago/cps-expands-sex-education-curb-rampant-teen-infections.

[6]Ibid.

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