The Massachusetts Senate recently passed Sen. Sal DiDomenico’s bill, An Act relative to healthy youth (S.2459). This bill will ensure that Massachusetts schools electing to provide their students with sex education use age-appropriate and medically accurate curriculum that covers a comprehensive range of topics. The legislation also calls for sex education to be inclusive and appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I am very proud that the Massachusetts Senate has once again reaffirmed our commitment to this commonsense healthy policy that will ensure our youth have the tools needed to protect their health and form respectful relationships,” said Sen. DiDomenico. “This legislation makes it clear that sex education in the Commonwealth must be inclusive for all students and emphasize the importance and necessity of consent. I would like to thank and congratulate the many advocates who have partnered with us on this legislation and worked tirelessly to ensure Massachusetts youth have the information they need to build the bright futures they deserve— without shame or judgement.”
Currently, when Massachusetts public schools provide their students with health education that covers sexual activity, there is no guarantee that the information provided is age-appropriate or medically accurate. This legislation changes this by requiring school districts that offer sex education to follow certain guidelines to ensure students are provided with age-appropriate, medically accurate, and comprehensive information.
The Senate passed similar versions of the Healthy Youth Act in prior sessions and this most recent version incorporates additional feedback from experts as well as advocates. This legislation does not require schools to offer sex education and also protects parents’ right to remove their children from all or part of sex education if they choose to do so — an action protected by state law. In addition, it provides districts that teach sex education curriculum with updated guidance on how to notify parents about these programs.
Notification to parents and guardians must be in English, as well as any other commonly spoken languages by parents. Districts must also have a process for parents to review the program instruction materials prior to the start of the course, if the parents request it.
Sex education programs have repeatedly been shown to work best when they emphasize the value of delaying sex, while also teaching students about the importance of protecting themselves from unintended consequences. As demonstrated by numerous studies, comprehensive sex education programs have been proven to delay the initiation of sex, increase use of contraception, lower the rates of STIs and unintended pregnancy among teens, and reduce reported levels of bullying towards LGBTQ youth in school.
A 2018 poll conducted by EMC Research showed overwhelming bipartisan support for sex education in Massachusetts, with 92% of likely voters agreeing that students should receive sex education in high school and 89% of likely voters agree that sex education should include comprehensive information, such as how to build healthy relationships and understand consent.
This bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.