On August 20, 2021 Governor JB Pritzker signed the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act, which creates age-appropriate learning standards for public schools that decide to teach comprehensive personal health and safety education (grades K-5) and comprehensive sexual health education (grades 6-12).
“AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) thanks Governor Pritzker for signing SB 818, a bill that ensures comprehensive sexual health education for youth across our state,” said Meg McElroy, Manager of Policy and Advocacy Special Projects, AFC. “This alignment with science and public health best practices guarantees health education in Illinois is inclusive and affirming of communities who have historically been stigmatized or excluded, including the HIV community and LGBTQIA youth. AFC recognizes this is the first step toward inclusive education for Illinois’ students, built on the foundation of empowering and affirming young people and ending stigma, which we know ultimately will help us reach our goal of zero new cases of HIV in Illinois by 2030.”
Also known as Senate Bill 818, the new law will establish age-appropriate learning standards in alignment with national standards developed by leading public health groups, education organizations and experts. The standards ensure that youth in Illinois are equipped with the necessary tools and information to lead healthy and safe lives at all ages. The Illinois State Board of Education must develop and adopt the standards by August 1, 2022. Before that date, public schools that provide instruction in comprehensive personal health and safety education and comprehensive sexual health education must do so in an age-appropriate, inclusive and comprehensive way.
The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act also ensures that such instruction is inclusive and affirming of communities who historically have been stigmatized or excluded from such instruction, including youth living with a disability, LGBTQIA youth, pregnant or parenting youth, and survivors of interpersonal and sexual violence. Additionally, this education must not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act passed the Illinois General Assembly in May, where it was championed by State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago), State Representative Camille Lilly (D-Chicago), State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago), and State Representative Kathleen Willis (D-Addison).
The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act is supported by a broad statewide coalition of organizations, including AFC, ACLU of Illinois, Equality Illinois, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, American Association of University Women (AAUW) Illinois, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Chicago Abortion Fund, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, Chicago Women’s Health Center, Citizen Action/Illinois, Comprehensive Sex Ed Now, Cook County Health, EverThrive Illinois, Healing to Action, Hult Center for Healthy Living, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Illinois National Organization for Women, Illinois Public Health Association, Illinois School Counselor Association, Kenneth Young Center, Lambda Legal, Life Span, McHenry County Citizens for Choice, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, National Association of Social Workers-Illinois Chapter, National Council of Jewish Women Illinois, Peoria Proud, PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois, Prairie Pride Coalition, Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Resilience, She Votes Illinois, SIECUS, The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, Uniting Pride of Champaign County, and YWCA Evanston/North Shore.