Group says Illinois parents should know sex ed opt-out rights

(The Center Square) – As the new school year is well underway, a parent’s rights advocacy group is urging Illinois families to know what their options are concerning sex education being taught…

(The Center Square) – As the new school year is well underway, a parent’s rights advocacy group is urging Illinois families to know what their options are concerning sex education being taught in some schools.

The vast majority of Illinois school districts are not opting into controversial sexual education curricula, according to Awake Illinois. But the districts with the largest student populations are. 

In 2021, Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted a law aligning the state’s public schools with the National Sex Education Standards, saying the measure will modernize the subject with age-appropriate content for grades K-12. 

Among the standards for grades K-2 are defining gender expression, different kinds of families and types of sexual abuse. Grade 3-5 goes into anatomy, gender identity and sexual orientation. Grades 6-8 will learn about different types of sex, different types of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Grade 9-10 will learn about the history of “reproductive justice.” Grades 11-12 will learn about power and privilege within sexual relationships.

“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 announcing his signature.

The law was praised by sex education advocates. 

“As a sex educator who has personally been targeted by misinformed critics for providing those necessary tools, I understand the urgent need to expand access to sex education that is medically accurate, LGBTQ+ affirming, culturally inclusive, and age-appropriate,” Justine Ang Fonte, an intersectional sex educator, said in 2021. 

Opponents said the law goes too far. 

Awake Illinois found through the Freedom of Information Act that of 758 school districts surveyed by the Illinois State Board of Education, 206 have opted in during the last school year. Awake Illinois founder Shannon Adcock said parent advocacy is working. 

“School boards are listening to the concerned citizens and saying, ‘OK, we will not incorporate this,’” Adcock told WMAY.  

But Adcock said on the flip side, the state’s largest districts are opting in. Of data from larger schools analyzed by Awake Illinois, more than 300,600 K-12 students from Chicago Public Schools, Elgin U-46, Oswego District, Peoria School District 150 and Evanston District 65 opted in. 

“Some of the largest public school districts in Illinois are indeed leaning in to this radical agenda,” the group said.

If the school district does not opt out, parents can opt their child out. Data analyzed by Awake Illinois shows at Hazel Crest School District 152, 100% of K-2 students opted out, 27.8% of 3rd-5th grade students opted out and 17.5% of 6th-8th grade students opted out. 

“Chicago Public Schools unfortunately reported, and we have to take them at their word, that zero students opted out of this curricula,” Adcock said. 

Transparency is an issue, she said. 

“Where school districts are not telling parents that they can [opt out] and they’re not telling them when specifically this curriculum is being implemented in a kindergarten through 12 classroom,” Adcock said. 

Parents have to be vigilant, she said.  

“Parental rights are not granted to you by politicians … They are protected,” Adcock said. “And actually the due process clause of the 14th Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to direct the care, upbringing and education of their children.” 

A measure to make the standards a requirement for all schools failed to advance earlier this year.