FILE - IL Rep. Kathleen Willis 10-25-17

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, speaks on the Illinois House floor.

(The Center Square) – Opposition is growing from parents, religious groups and Republican lawmakers on sex education standards for Illinois schools.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said when signing the legislation into law that it “will help keep our children safe.” The law, among other things, requires teaching sex ed to kindergarten students.

The measure requires the curriculum to align with the National Sex Education Standards created by the Future of Sex Education initiative.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, was behind the legislation and wanted the sex ed curriculum mandated for schools, which ultimately was excluded from the final legislation.

“It is not too early to start teaching children, as young as pre-school and definitely by kindergarten, about healthy relationships,” Willis said.

During a protest outside the governor’s mansion in early July, Davis Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said local school districts should make local decisions.

“Let the parents, along with their priests, rabbis and pastors, teach sex ed and the birds and the bees to our kids,” Smith said. “That's not the job of government educators.”

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich, is urging school districts to opt-out of the curriculum.

“These standards are very worrisome, to say the least,” Niemerg said. “They are trying to teach gender identity to kindergartners and sexual education all the way to 3rd and up.”

He notes that local school boards have the authority to establish their own curriculum guidelines and do not have to comply with these standards because there is no law requiring schools to teach sex education in the first place.

According to the organization Awake Illinois, a majority of Illinois school districts appear to be opting out.

Some have adopted the curriculum. Some of the larger school districts that have done so include Rockford, Evanston, Mundelein and East St. Louis.

Illinois is the first state to adopt the National Sex Education Standards. The New York state legislature also introduced a proposal to align their state sex education standards with the national modal, but the legislation has stalled in committee.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.