Massachusetts students will now receive more inclusive sex and health education, after a unanimous vote by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. These updated curriculum frameworks aim to cover a range of topics including LGBTQ+ issues, bodily autonomy, mental and emotional health, dating safety, nutrition, sexually transmitted infections and consent. This is the first update of the guidelines since 1999.
The new standards are categorized into four age groups: preschool through second grade, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. For the youngest students, the focus is on healthy eating, stress management, hygiene habits, emergency response, promoting respect, bullying prevention and the importance of taking medication when prescribed.
As students progress through their education, the guidelines include modules on sexuality education, healthy relationships, gender identity, substance abuse, human trafficking and sexuality awareness, and evidence-based physical education methods.
The Board of Education’s decision follows a public comment period over the summer, during which the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received nearly 5,400 comments. The proposal to update the state’s sexuality education guidelines was originally announced by Gov. Maura Healey in June, following previous legislative attempts that failed in the Massachusetts House.
While the Senate earlier passed the “Healthy Youth Act” aimed at updating sexuality education, comprehensive bills addressing human anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS, contraception, dating violence, and gender and sexual identity they were not adopted in the House more than once.