On Friday, 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).
Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, said:
"Equality Illinois is excited the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act is now law. In Carbondale, Springfield, Naperville, and more communities across the state, LGBTQ youth consistently told us their healthcare needs, their relationships, and their identities must be included and affirmed in public school instruction about personal health and safety education and sexual health education. This law advances Illinois' values of inclusion and the freedom to build our best lives without burden or discrimination.
"While we are proud of this Act, there is much work to be done and more allies to get on board to ensure all Illinois public schools provide students with age-appropriate, comprehensive, and affirming personal health and safety education and sexual health education. We will forge ahead."
Also known as Senate Bill 818, the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act applies to public school districts that choose to teach comprehensive personal health and safety education in grades K-5 and comprehensive sexual health education in grades 6-12. The new law will establish age-appropriate learning standards in alignment with national standards developed by leading public health groups, education organizations, and experts to 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 Equality Illinois, ACLU of Illinois, AIDS Foundation Chicago, 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.
"Thank you, Gov. Pritzker, for signing the bill," Johnson said. "Thank you to our champions: State Sen. Ram Villivalam, State Rep. Camille Lilly, State Sen. Celina Villanueva, and State Rep. Kathleen Willis. Thank you to the 37 state senators and 60 state representatives who voted YES to supporting Illinois' youth, including LGBTQ youth. Thank you to our many dedicated partners, including Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, Rainbow Café LGBTQ Center, AIDS Foundation Chicago, and the ACLU of Illinois."
About Equality Illinois
At Equality Illinois we envision a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We work hard to promote legislation to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals; maintain the visibility of LGBTQ issues; oppose legislation which seeks to limit the civil rights of the LGBTQ community; and expand statewide grassroots support.