BOSTON — The world has changed a lot since 1999, but that’s the last time the guidelines for teaching sex education in Massachusetts were updated.
The state senate recently passed a bill by a wide margin that would bring them into the 21st century.
Not everyone is happy about that, however. Intimate relationships, and how children should learn about them, always draws strong opinions.
“It teaches them about things that are not age-appropriate and that most parents would not find age-appropriate,” said Andrew Beckwith, president and general counsel for the Massachusetts Family Institute, an organization he says advocates for traditional family values.
“We have our head in the sand if we believe our kids are not talking about this on the street and getting bad information that have lifelong consequences,” countered State Senator Sal DiDomenico from Everett.
DiDomenico’s bill recently passed the Senate 38-1 and is now before the House Committee on Ways and Means.
“It actually says that if you’re going to teach sex education, it has to be medically accurate and age-appropriate,” explained DiDomenico. “It has to include a lot of different things including healthy relationships, consent, LBGTQ language, abstinence, as well as contraceptive use.”
This bill would continue to allow communities to opt-in, or opt-out, of teaching sex education. The difference is if they do, then they would have to work within this new framework.
Currently, the state does not mandate any standards.
“This is not anything that’s game-changing,” added DiDomenico.
Beckwith believes many of the materials currently used across the state are inappropriate but would still prefer to keep control on the local level.
“I don’t think it’s a good solution to have a bad curriculum and then allow people to opt-out of it,” Beckwith stated. “Let’s allow parents and local communities to work together to decide what they, as a community think, is the best way to teach kids about this.”
Boston 25 News sampled opinion on this topic along Boylston Street.
One man said, “We know that abstinence doesn’t work, so yea, I’d be in favor of an overhaul.”
A college student thinks sex education should probably start in the 11th grade. “It feels like 10th grade and below, your brain’s not ready for it.”
A woman told us, “In this changing world, I think there’s a lack of information. I definitely think that sex ed should be updated.”
It’s important to note that a parent will still have the right to remove a child from sex ed classes if this bill becomes law.
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