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Coalition pushing REACH Act in Illinois

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SPRINGFIELD — A coalition of Illinois LGBTQ, health and youth advocacy groups announced their support for the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health (REACH) Act on Wednesday.

The REACH Act would require comprehensive, inclusive, and age-appropriate personal health and safety education to be taught in public schools in grades K-12.

Co-sponsors of the bill are Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison). If passed, the REACH Act will be phased in, allowing schools adequate time and resources to implement quality programs. School districts will maintain control by selecting the curriculum and number of minutes for teaching. Parents will also retain the right to remove their child from sex education classes.

“In recent years, the news has been filled with reporting on child sex abuse scandals, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault on college campuses, and bullying of LGBTQ students and people of color,” said Villivalam. “There is urgency to act now to ensure all students in Illinois receive the age appropriate education necessary to be safe and healthy. Senate Bill 2762 will do just that.”

“Planned Parenthood of Illinois supports the REACH Act because students who don’t receive age-appropriate, comprehensive, and inclusive sexual health education are at risk of harm,” said Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Jennifer Welch. “Research has shown that the long term impacts of comprehensive sexual education include lower sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy rate.

“When school districts ignore the health and wellness needs of all students, we are left to figure things out on our own. This isn’t right,” explained Tre Graham, youth representative of the Rainbow Café LGBTQ Youth Center in Carbondale.

“The REACH Act is the result of months of outreach and engagement with partners across the state, including with LGBTQ students in Carbondale and Springfield and more than 30 community organizations,” said said Michael Ziri, director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois. “Advocates want Illinois to act now to support all students in all parts of the state, and the REACH Act does that.”

Currently, 29 states mandate sex education, of which Illinois is not one. The REACH Act requires sex education to address experiences and needs of all youth in the school, including pupils with disabilities; to not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, nation origin, disability, religion, gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation; and to allow instructors to answer questions initiated by a student that are related to and consistent with the material of the course.

The REACH ACT is supported by AAUW Illinois, ALPHAS (African-American Lesbian Professionals Having A Say), Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, Comprehensive Sex Ed Now, Equality Illinois, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Illinois Public Health Association, Lambda Legal, National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter, Peer Health Exchange, Peoria Proud, PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois, Phoenix Center, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Prairie Pride Coalition, Rainbow Café, Resilience

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