Little change for local schools with new state law

Little change for local schools with new state law

A few local schools said changes to the law on sex education for sixth- through 12th-graders won't change what they already teach, but one local principal said it will change things a bit.

The changes will require schools that teach sex ed to include information about abstinence, contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases.

Previously, the law required education about abstinence and the prevention of HIV and AIDS.

Brian Brooks, principal at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, said sex ed in the school's health class has always taught students about abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases, but not necessarily about contraceptives.

"It will be a minor change for us," Brooks said, adding that he's spoken with the school's health teacher, who thinks it's "a good change."

Usually, one or two students may opt out of sex ed each year, Brooks said. It's possible that the change in the law will mean more parents have their students opt out, he said, but the school will have to see.

However, sex ed classes in several other school districts already included information that complies with the new law.

Vicki Politzer, who is the physical education and health curriculum coordinator at Urbana Middle School, said students there have had comprehensive sex education in seventh grade since she started working there five years ago.

Students at the school learn about different forms of sexual contact, all forms of contraception and "discuss various possible consequences of deciding to have sex," she said.

"We do place a emphasis on abstinence, as well," Politzer said.

She said such an approach provides students with the knowledge they need to make educated and safe choices.

"If we are just teaching children to not have sex and how bad it is, it's not educating them completely and preparing them for the future," Politzer said. "Students need to know the ways they can protect themselves when the time comes that they decide to take part in sex."

Politzer said students should learn about more than just the consequences of sexual activity.

"We know that children are curious human beings and will go out and explore on their own, so it's important we are doing our best to protect them," Politzer said.

At Fisher Junior-Senior High School, Principal Tom Shallenberger said health class at his school already included the topics that will be required by the new law.

"It's really no change," he said.

That's also true in the Danville school district, said Superintendent Mark Denman, where middle- and high-school sex ed includes information about contraceptives and STDs. Parents may still opt out of the classes for their children, he said.

In Champaign, administrators will be working on a new health curriculum, said Kristin Camp, the district's K-12 science and health curriculum coordinator.

"We'll fully comply with that and all state mandates in our health curriculum," she said.

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