Beginning in 2016, Chicago students may be receiving sex education classes as early as kindergarten. Currently, students begin sex education in the fifth grade, a common practice throughout the U.S. However, experts point out that America has one of the highest teen birth rates in the world. Additionally, Cook County has an unusually high rate of sexually transmitted diseases, and several studies have indicated that children as young as 13 and 14 years of age are having sex, especially in large urban areas.
The new sex ed program emphasizes age appropriate subject matter. Prior to the fifth grade, students would be introduced to subjects like basic anatomy, inappropriate touching and about various species that reproduce. As students progress through successive school years, the sex ed focus will continue to be on feelings and the family, with puberty being added in the fourth grade.
Contraception and human reproduction would not be addressed until the fifth grade. New components of the sex ed program would include information about sexual identity, homosexuality and bullying.
These changes are aimed at giving children the information they need to make healthy, responsible life choices. However, many parents are made uncomfortable at the thought of their young children receiving sex education at as early as five or six years of age. Some say that children are not yet ready to be presented with such information.
Parents who would rather not have their children participate in the program can choose to opt out. To these parents, it simply makes sense to discuss sexuality and human reproduction in the home. Nonetheless, the information presented in the classroom can be especially helpful, and public school officials suggest that any education provided at home can be augmented by instruction at school.
The changes to Chicago’s sex education program are in line with President Obama’s HIV/AIDS agenda, and were designed by the Chicago Public School’s Office of Student Health and Wellness. A final decision has not yet been reached on the issue, but a presentation to the Chicago Board of Education may result in imminent implementation of the strategy.