By Emily Ike, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Despite scattered pockets of local opposition, sexual health education will now reach students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) starting in kindergarten, thanks to a recent school district policy advance. The new mandate, to be implemented within the next two years, calls for 300 minutes (or approximately 30 minutes per month) of sexual and health education for students throughout the school year. Developed by the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness, the policy was developed to align health instruction in local public schools with the national HIV/AIDS strategy and the National Sexuality Education Standards.,
Using age-appropriate material and language, the new approach will cover topics such as appropriate and inappropriate touch, family diversity, bullying, and anatomically correct words for all the body parts. As students advance through middle and high school, they will learn accurate terms related to sexual orientation and gender identity. An opt-out provision will allow parents to exclude their child from some lessons by providing prior notification to CPS.
Some opposition voices allege that the instructional program is a plot to “normalize homosexuality.” The conservative publication Life News covered the story by alleging that CPS had “caused a furor” across the city, and went on to link more comprehensive sexual health instruction to Planned Parenthood and President Barack Obama: “Obama first noted that he had worked with Planned Parenthood to push a sex education bill when he served in the Illinois state legislature.”
In contrast, many other school stakeholders have expressed support for this more comprehensive approach. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS Chief Executive Officer, defended the changes: “By implementing a new sexual health education policy, we will be helping [students] to build a foundation of knowledge that can guide them not just in the preadolescent and adolescent years, but throughout their lives.”Ayesha Ahmad, a parent in the school district, commented, “I’m OK with it. I’d like to believe it’s not necessary, but I think our culture dictates you can’t start early enough.”
Jeff Morris, “Sex Education to Be Offered for Chicago Kindergarteners,” WCHS Eyewitness Local News, September 3, 2013, accessed September 30, 2013 at http://www.wchstv.com/newsroom/eyewitness/130903_18766.shtml
“CPS Mandates Sexual, Health Education for Kindergarten”, CBS Chicago, August 29, 2013, accessed September 30, 2013 at http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/08/29/cps-mandates-sexual-health-education-for-kindergartners/
 “Chicago Board of Education to Consider Proposed New Health Education Policy,” Press Release, Chicago Public Schools, February 25, 2013, accessed October 1, 2013 at http://www.cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/PR1_2_25_2013.aspx.
Steven Ertelt, “Obama Agreed with Mandating Sex Ed Classes for Kindergarten Students,” Life News, September 2, 2013, accessed October 1, 2013 at http://www.lifenews.com/2013/09/02/obama-agreed-with-mandating-sex-ed-classes-for-kindergarten-students/.
Jeff Morris, “Sex Education to Be Offered...”