Weather Updates

Editorial: A smarter sex ed

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck has been named new director Illinois Department Public Health.

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck has been named the new director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

storyidforme: 47565619
tmspicid: 11724208
fileheaderid: 5355327

Updated: May 13, 2013 6:26AM

You might be surprised to learn this about your child’s sex education instruction in public school, if the school offers sex ed at all:

There is no requirement that comprehensive, medically accurate information be taught, and state law says the main message should be abstinence-only until marriage.

If there’s nary a word to high schoolers about other ways to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases beyond abstinence, our current law says that’s fine. Illinois does not even require the use of an evidence-based curriculum.

A bill before the state Legislature to change this has our strong support. It also is backed by almost 40 Illinois groups, including the local American Academy of Pediatrics chapter, the Illinois State Medical Society and the state department of public health.

The bill, calling for comprehensive and medically accurate sex education, could face a House vote early next week.

The bill wouldn’t require school districts to teach sex education; that would remain optional. Nor would it apply to any student below sixth grade, as is current law.

But if a district decides to teach sex ed to its 11- to 18-year-olds, it would have to use a curriculum that includes instruction on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The bill stresses abstinence until marriage, calling abstinence “the only protection that is 100 percent effective against” unwanted pregnancy and STDs.

That’s the right message for children and it helps quiet critics, who dismiss this bill as part of a ploy by lawmakers intent “on the early sexualization of children.”

No, this bill only sets a basic standard: give children information to equip them to live in the modern world. Cook County, for example, has the highest number of cases of gonorrhea and syphilis in the nation.

“We know from evidence that the comprehensive approach is more successful in terms of decreasing the number of sexual partners and rates of STDs,” said LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We are not encouraging students to do things they aren’t otherwise doing. We’re just encouraging them to do it more smartly, including abstinence.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.