Dist 117 Approves Resolution Opposing Legislation That Would Amend Sex Ed Curriculum

By Jeremy Coumbes on May 21, 2021 at 10:57am

The Jacksonville School District 117 Board of Education is making its opposition to proposed sex education legislation known. The board passed a resolution Wednesday night opposing Senate Bill 0818, passed by the Senate yesterday 37-18.

SB 0818, known as the Keeping You Safe and Healthy Act, would mandate schools include “comprehensive personal health and safety education and comprehensive sexual health education” in their curriculum by July of 2023.

The bill would require age-appropriate sex education for K through 12 students on the subject of consent and would include provisions for students who identify as LGBTQ, students with disabilities, and students with children. The District 117 school board joined a growing number of school districts in opposition to the measure.

District Superintendent Steve Ptacek said following the decision that the Board’s opposition has less to do with the bill’s content and everything to do with it being an unfunded mandate to Illinois schools.

The issues potentially covered in Senate Bill 818 are local community value issues, and whether I agree with them or not is irrelevant. It comes down to the point that should be a decision by the local school board.

The board agreed with me, and I knew they would the minute I went to a LUDA meeting that brought up some concerns about this bill that this should be decided by the local school board.”

Proponents of the bill point to children being the most vulnerable to sexual abuse between ages 7 and 13, and therefore children should be taught at an early age about appropriate and inappropriate conduct.

The bill also amends the statute that sex ed would have to be “medically accurate” and “culturally appropriate”, which would include affirming gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and behavior and removing the inclusion of abstinence-only behavior.

Ptacek says the bill would remove the power of the local school district to govern the content it teaches.

As presented, it opens up the ability for ISBE to develop a curriculum that is on this research-based model that there have been hints of pulling the Federal standards into our schools and forcing them on the local school district.

And understanding that this is an area that, as I say, rational adults can disagree, that when you’re telling people across the state that this is the way you should think, on an area that once again rational adults can disagree, and people that have different value systems can disagree. I’m highly concerned that is a form of indoctrination which is what our school system’s not supposed to be doing.”

Ptacek says this is the first legislation he has had to bring to the attention of the Board which was not based on a financial impact to the district.

Most of the past pieces of legislation I’ve spoken with the board individually about whether or not they want me to fight against have been more about finances. For instance, teaching three years of Spanish. It’s not about the value system of teaching Spanish or not, it’s about the reality of can we fit that into our schedule and find enough and hire enough teachers.

This is the first one in my eight years here that really was just about removing a local board’s ability to establish values for its own district. So I brought it to the board’s attention and they were concerned also so we decided to go forward with an official resolution.”

The District 117 resolution coincides with the opposition made during the Senate Committee hearing by the Illinois Association of School Boards, whose representatives said it didn’t oppose the spirit of the legislation, but the fact that it created the mandate rather than leaving the decision to the local school boards. The bill now heads to the Illinois House for final approval before it heads to the Governor’s desk.