SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • Bananas and condom races became topics of debate in the Illinois Senate this afternoon, when lawmakers rejected a measure that would have given the State Board of Education new control over sex education.
Under the legislation, schools choosing to offer sex education would be required to teach "medically accurate and developmentally appropriate" curriculum — local districts would choose from a range of material offered by the state board, then parents could review the material and decide whether or not their child should participate.
Republican lawmakers grilled the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, on what would qualified as "age-appropriate" material for the junior high and high school students in question.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, asked Steans if materials suggesting "having races by putting condoms on bananas" were suited for sixth-graders.
State Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, said he believed adopting the new standards could push parents with "traditional values" to pull their children from public schools.
Steans said her focus was reducing unwanted pregnancies and keeping children safe. She dismissed the questioning as a "scare tactic" and offered statistics on the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among teens.
The materials would stress that abstinence is it only guaranteed method of preventing pregnancy and disease, Steans said.
"This is not just educating them on math and science — this is educating them on an issue that could literally save their lives," said state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Plainfield.
"Did you abstain until you were married?" Holmes asked her colleagues, "Because if you did not and you press that button, that is the epitome of hypocrisy."
The bill fell one vote short of the 30 needed for passage, but Steans used a procedural tactic to keep it alive. The Senate could take up the measure again in the future.
— The bill is SB1619.