Pritzker signs sex education bill that sparked heated General Assembly debate – Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed a controversial piece of legislation that makes changes to the state’s sex education curriculum that a sponsor of the legislation said would ensure no student feels “stigmatized or excluded” in the classroom.

“Modernizing our sex education standards will help keep our children safe and ensure important lessons like consent and internet safety are taught in classrooms,” Pritzker said in a statement. “By working together, we’ll continue to strengthen our education system and deliver the bright future our kids deserve.”

The new law ignited fireworks in the Illinois Senate when it was up for debate in May. One North Side senator demanded the remarks of a Republican colleague from southern Illinois be stricken from the record.

And the fireworks exploded all over again on Friday — with two GOP rivals blasting both the new law and the Democratic governor as “extreme.”

Pritzker signed two pieces of legislation Friday that address sex education standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

One bill adds personal health and safety education standards to curriculums for students in grades K-5 and makes health education more inclusive for those in grades 6 through 12. Schools can choose whether they adopt the standards unless they already teach comprehensive sexual health education.

Parents can choose to opt their child out.

Course material and instruction will help students “learn about concepts like consent and will develop self-advocacy skills for effective communication with parents or guardians, health and social service professionals, other trusted adults, and peers about health and relationships,” according to a news release.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam, the Northwest Side Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in a statement “no student should feel stigmatized or excluded in the classroom.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam speaks at a bill-signing ceremony at the Thompson Center earlier this month.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam speaks at a bill-signing ceremony at the Thompson Center earlier this month.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

“This legislation puts forth guidelines for an inclusive, culturally competent curriculum to keep students safe and healthy,” Villivalam said.

The legislation seeks to standardize the curriculum in Illinois schools.

During Senate debate in May, Villivalam told lawmakers students would learn to define consent, gender identity and different types of families, including co-habitating and same-sex couples, topics that will help students “understand a healthy relationship.”

But state Sen. Darren Bailey, a Republican from downstate Xenia who is running for governor, accused the bill’s Democratic sponsors of “pushing perversion in our schools.”

“Teachers who work hard to teach our kids about proper education have absolutely no reason in teaching this … absolute nonsense,” Bailey said at the time.

State Sen. Mike Simmons, who is gay, called Bailey’s remark “deeply offensive” and asked that it be stricken from the record at the time.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, left, in May; State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, right, in February.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, left, in May; State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, right, in February.
Facebook; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times after the bill advanced out of the state’s upper legislative chamber, Simmons characterized Bailey’s remarks as an attack on the LGBTQ community.

“I took it as a dog whistle intended to dehumanize a whole spectrum of diverse families … that includes LGBTQ people,” Simmons said. “I felt like it also was intended to shame young people – shaming their bodies.”

At the time, Bailey denied his remark about “perversion” referred to teaching students about same-sex relationships.

“The bill is obscene and fails to align with most community standards,” Bailey said in a statement. “It was created by activist organizations that don’t care about active parental consent or strong families.”

Also blasting Pritzker’s decision to sign the bill, GOP gubernatorial candidate Paul Schimpf said in a statement that Pritzker’s “misguided” decision “proves once again that he is too extreme to lead our state.”

Paul Schimpf, a former Republican state senator, announcing his bid for governor in February.

Paul Schimpf, a former Republican state senator, announcing his bid for governor in February.
Blue Room Stream

“Gov. Pritzker has shown an unwillingness to listen to the common sense views of parents who want schools to focus on teaching academics rather than social engineering,” the former state senator from downstate Waterloo said. “Now, more than ever, we need an Illinois governor who understands that parents, not the government, should make decisions about their children’s education, healthcare and maturation into adulthood.”

The other bill Pritzker signed requires classes that teach sex education to include an age-appropriate discussion regarding sexting. That unit will cover possible consequences for sharing or forwarding sexually explicit or suggestive messages, the importance of internet safety and the how strategies to resist peer pressure.