REACH Act to be reintroduced into Illinois General Assembly
On Tuesday, State Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Northlake) announced that they were reintroducing the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health Act (REACH Act).
If passed and signed into law, the REACH Act would require age-appropriate, comprehensive, and inclusive personal health and safety education for K-12 public school students in Illinois. School districts would keep control of selecting the curriculum and parents would be able to remove their children from classes.
Villivalam and Willis made the announcement in a press conference with representatives from Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA), Equality Illinois, and Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Youth Center. The act was introduced last year as well.
The REACH Act outlines age appropriate as:
- Grades K-2: instruction focuses on personal safety, identifying trusted adults who children can rely on for guidance and support, and respecting others.
- Grades 3-5: instruction continues to focus on personal safety and healthy relationships and discusses bullying, harassment, abuse, consent, anatomy, puberty, hygiene, body image, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
- Grades 6-12: instruction builds on prior instruction about healthy relationships by covering issues like consent, sexual harassment, abuse, and interpersonal violence, provides additional information on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and covers the benefits of abstinence, behavioral changes, barrier methods like condoms, medication, contraception, and sexually transmitted infection prevention measures.
“The Illinois education system must include the age appropriate tools and resources necessary to ensure our children learn basic relationship skills that will keep them safe and healthy,” said Villivalam. “Sharing, respect and cooperation are the building blocks that we need to actively teach our future leaders so they can relate and interact with one another in a positive and productive manner.”
“Illinois students deserve age-appropriate, comprehensive, and inclusive sexual health education,” said Deonn Strathman, Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ Director of Community Engagement and Adolescent Health Initiatives. “Research has shown that the long-term impacts of comprehensive sexual education include lower sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy rates. Plus, the REACH Act provides guidance for youth of all ages to understand and develop healthy relationships.”
“When you are part of the LGBTQ community getting accurate information about relationships, sexuality, and gender is important. Most youth are left to discover about these topics on their own. This leads to terrible outcomes like toxic friendships and abusive romantic relationships,” said Cal Vine, Carbondale High School sophomore.
According to a press release from the lawmakers, 30 states require personal health and safety education, but Illinois is not one of them.
A large coalition of organizations support the act, including ALPHAS (African-American Lesbian Professionals Having A Say), Bolingbrook Pride, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Elmhurst Pride Collective, Equality Illinois, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Lambda Legal, Naper Pride (Naperville), Peoria Proud, PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois, Phoenix Center (Springfield), Prairie Pride Coalition, Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County, The Women’s Center, and Youth Outlook.
Conservative groups, however, are opposing the bill. Molly Malone Rumley, a lobbyist for the Illinois Pro-Family Alliance, told The Center Square the bill could result in religious students getting bullied.
“You’re kind of saying ‘well, what you believe is silly and what we are teaching you is actually correct,’ so you’re undermining those religious beliefs,” she told the conservative publication.
She also complained about the medical accuracy outlined in the bill, claiming that if the education was medically accurate, it would require teaching that life begins at conception and “there are only two biological genders or sexes.” Even the opting out wasn’t good because if parents did removed their children from the classes, they would still learn from their classmates.
The bill could be filed this week.