‘Sex ed for legislators’ aims to update statewide education curriculum

Sex education bill meets mix of support, opposition in State House

BOSTON — Sex education is being discussed at the State House as lawmakers say the state's framework hasn't changed in 30 years and it needs an update. But Republicans and some conservative groups say ‘the talk’ belongs in the home and not in classrooms.

The last time the sex education curriculum in Massachusetts was updated was 1999. And lawmakers and advocates say it's time for a change.

Rep. James O’Day (D-Worcester) and the Healthy Youth Coalition held a briefing titled ‘Sex Ed for Legislators’ on Wednesday. The aim was to promote a senate bill that would update the state’s sex education framework in schools that choose to teach it.

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"Whether that's affirmative consent, conflict resolution, more than just abstinence, contraception," Rep. O’ Day said.

The bill would require districts that offer a sex-ed curriculum to rely on, “medically accurate, age-appropriate information and update guidelines for LGBTQ students.”

Beatrice Croteau is part of the Arlington High School Gay-Straight Alliance.

"[LGBTQ students] need to be represented because there are queer students in classes that aren't getting the education that they need," Croteau said.

A former social worker, O’Day's bill passed in the Senate for the third time, in January, but has never made it through the House, where it has faced Republican opposition.

Those who oppose the bill say conversations around sex should happen at the dinner table and not in the classroom.

“We believe parents are the number one educators on a subject that is this personal,” said Andrew Beckwith, the President of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “If this bill passed, the choices will be severely limited to whatever the State Department of Education says is approved.”

Beckwith’s organization claims the bill gives Planned Parenthood a platform in state classrooms and points to materials they say are too sexually graphic for kids.

“The age for consent for sex in Massachusetts is 16, so to teach 12 and 13 year olds about how to engage in sexual activity, and about consent…they're not legally capable of consent," Beckwith said.

"In my 25 years, I came across too many young children, 12, 13, 14, year old females, who were pregnant and didn't have a clue how that happened,” Rep. O’Day said. “So I can pretty much assure the public that this topic is not being discussed at home in a very complex and comprehensive way."

Even if the bill passes, every district in the commonwealth has a right to decide whether or not to implement sex education in their schools.

“It gives parents a 30-day notice on what the curriculum will be, so if they don’t want their student to be part of it, they can opt out,” Rep. O’Day said. “And if a district does not want to teach this then they will not teach a sex education curriculum.”