New Sex Ed to See Senate Vote this Week


Senators this week will vote again on a bill to significantly change the state's sex education guidelines, something the chamber has already approved four times without getting buy-in from the wary House of Representatives.

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means polled the so-called Healthy Youth Act (S 268) on Thursday morning, getting it ready for action Thursday in the Senate's first formal session in four weeks.

The bill would alter Massachusetts' sexual health laws and create guidelines for districts that opt into teaching sex education to go over human anatomy; how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, AIDS and unwanted pregnancy; effective use of contraceptives; how to safely discuss sexual activity in a relationship; skills to identify and prevent sexual violence and relationship violence; and age-appropriate and affirming education on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Though the Senate has voted to remodel the education frameworks four times in the last decade, House Democrats have never taken it up. On the House side, Rep. Jim O'Day has sponsored the bill for the last 10 years.

The matter is to some extent moot since rhe Board of Elementary and Secondary Education updated its sexual health education standards on its own accord last year to mirror some of what the so-called Healthy Youth Act calls for, after Gov. Maura Healey threw her support behind the controversial measure.

Under the board's new physical and sex education guidelines, students will receive sex and health education that is intended to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and teach about 'bodily autonomy,' mental and emotional health, dating safety, nutrition, sexually transmitted infections and consent.

Neither the guidelines nor the bill would change the Massachusetts law that allows districts to opt-in to teaching sex education. The bill before senators would also require that parents get a letter at the beginning of the school year with details about the sex ed curriculum and the opportunity to opt their child out.

The bill would require data collection on what's being taught in schools, reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education every two years. It would also require that the state revisit the framework every 10 years, as it took 24 years this time around to update the guidelines.

-- State House News Service

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