BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate voted this Thursday to adopt a bill requiring school districts providing a sex education curricula to rely on medically validated and age-appropriate information by a margin of 33 - 2.
Bill S.2459, also known as the Healthy Youth Act, would ensure that any school or district which offers comprehensive sex education to students to provide a curriculum that includes reproduction and sexual development, anatomy, abstinence and contraception, safe sexual activity, communication skills, consent and the affirmation of multiple sexual orientations and gender identities.
The bill would also allow parents and legal guardians the right to review the materials prior to the start of the course and withdraw a student for all or part of the course for any reason.
"If we do not teach this in our schools, our kids still learn about this in an inaccurate way," said Sen. Sal DiDomenico, (D-Middlesex and Suffolk), a lead sponsor of the bill. "They're learning from their friends, from their peers, and learning information that is inaccurate and could be dangerous for their health."
“This is not a mandate. This vote is taken in a public, open meeting,” said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues during Thursday’s debate. “Parents have the ultimate choice whether or not their children would take part in this curriculum.”
A previous version of the bill drew contentious debate in 2017, with Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Essex and Middlesex) arguing "education of this nature should be primarily the responsibility of the family and parents."
“The state is now one step closer to offering our young people comprehensive, inclusive sex ed,” stated Senator Jim O’Day (D-Worcester), House Chairman of Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government and one of the co-sponsors of the bill, prior to its approval. “I very much look forward to a vote in the House.”
“The bill passed by the Senate today will ensure that health education in our schools is medically accurate and age-appropriate, promoting healthy relationships and healthy bodies," said Senator Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston), Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Supporters of the bill argue a comprehensive sex education curricula can combat epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and sexual assault and harassment.
“By mandating medically accurate sex-ed, the Massachusetts Senate is leading the charge to keep our young people safe and informed,” said NARAL Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder in a press release. “Leading medical experts agree that evidence-based sexual education is one of the most effective means of reducing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy in young people.”
Minor opposition to the bill came from the Massachusetts Republican Party, with MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons claiming the Health Youth Act “allows Planned Parenthood to syphon [sic] more taxpayer dollars, and at the same time promotes a reckless curriculum encouraging children to participate in dangerous sexual activity, all under the mask of progressivism.[sic]”
The bill is expected to be presented to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in the coming weeks If approved, the act could take effect as early as the 2020-2021 school year.
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