Massachusetts students will now receive a more inclusive sex and health education, following 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 to the guidelines since 1999.
The new standards are categorized into four age groups: pre-K 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 sex education, healthy relationships, gender identity, substance abuse, human and sex trafficking awareness, and evidence-based physical education methods.
This decision by the Board of Education 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 sex education guidelines was initially announced by Governor Maura Healey in June, aligning with previous legislation attempts that had failed in the Massachusetts House.
While the Senate has previously passed the “Healthy Youth Act” aimed at updating sex education, comprehensive bills addressing human anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS, contraception, dating violence, and gender and sexual identity repeatedly failed to pass in the House.