Knowledge is power and protection

The state's comprehensive sex education curriculum gives students information they need to make safe choices

Illinois' recently expanded sex education curriculum has created a backlash in school districts across the state. It was the subject of two hours of contentious public comment Nov. 10 before a 5-2 vote by the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board to add units on sexual orientation and gender identity.

School districts can opt out, and hundreds have, including Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54, which feed into District 211.

Parents also can choose that their children not receive sexual education.

But we encourage both parents and school districts to opt in.

Children are exposed every day to sexual content - much of it unhealthy - online and on television. Schools can provide an age- and development-appropriate curriculum that will enable students to make educated, safe choices.

Note that we said age- and development-appropriate. No one is suggesting that K-2 students learn more than basic anatomy with regards to sex.

What has some conservatives fired up is teaching about gender identity and how families can take many forms - neither of which is really sex education.

Chances are most elementary school-age children already know a peer with same-sex parents. They might already know someone who is trans or nonbinary. Learning respect and acceptance will not turn them gay or trans any more than it will turn them straight. Gender identity and sexuality are innate. More simply put, you're born that way.

Another aspect of the state's curriculum that has caused an outcry is defining vaginal, oral and anal sex to sixth- through eighth-graders. But that curriculum, too, is designed to be age-appropriate.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, from 2015-2017 the likelihood that an adolescent would have had sex by age 15 was about 20%. We may not want to acknowledge it, but a significant portion of children are sexually active in middle school. The innocence we want to preserve is already gone.

Education, however, can help by discouraging unhealthy behavior. Education helps young people identify abuse. Education prevents sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Keeping tweens and young teens uninformed does none of those things.

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