New CPS Sex Ed Program Would Start Early, Address Sexual Orientation

By Alex Parker on February 25, 2013 10:04am | Updated on February 25, 2013 10:55am

 Students let out of Armour School, 950 W. 33rd Place in Bridgeport, on Feb. 4, 2013.
Students let out of Armour School, 950 W. 33rd Place in Bridgeport, on Feb. 4, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

­CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools plans to have a new sex education policy in place by 2016, the district announced Sunday.

For the first time, the district will address sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as bullying.

As with the current policy, parents would be able to opt their children out of the sex education courses.

The policy would teach sex education to all grades, beginning in kindergarten, and would make CPS the largest school district in the country to have comprehensive sex education, a CPS news release said. The district plans to recommend the plan to the Chicago Board of Education next week.

“It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors, and relationships,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. “By implementing a new sexual health education policy, we will be helping them to build a foundation of knowledge that can guide them not just in the pre-adolescent and adolescent years, but throughout their lives.”

Currently, students in kindergarten through fourth grade learn about family life, and older students take part in a comprehensive sex education curriculum, said CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler. The new policy also makes it a requirement for all grades to spend a minimum amount of time on the curriculum. Currently, only fifth-graders have that requirement, she said.

For students in kindergarten through fourth grade, the curriculum will include lessons on anatomy and physiology, reproduction, healthy relationships and personal safety.

Starting in kindergarten, students will begin to learn about the family, feelings and appropriate and inappropriate touching. Fourth-graders will begin to learn about puberty, and the physical, social and emotional changes that go with it, as well as the causes and transmission of HIV.

Older students in grades five through 12 will learn age-appropriate lessons on human reproduction, transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, including abstinence, and more, the district said.

The proposal falls in line with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Healthy Chicago initiative and President Barack Obama’s national HIV/AIDS strategy, CPS said.

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