BOSTON - New guidelines for sex education in schools are now in place, but still up for a vote is a bill mandating public schools teach the updated curriculum. 

What You Need To Know

  • Sex ed guidelines were put out by DESE last month, updating 20+ year old language

  • The Healthy Youth Act is a bill that updates sex education in schools by focusing on age-appropriate sex and relationship curriculum 

  • If the bill is passed, schools will be mandated to teach the updated curriculum

  • Opponents believe that school districts should choose what is taught in their classrooms

A group in support of the mandated changes rallied this week outside of the State House.

“What do all the cool kids say? It’s time to pass the HYA!” the small crowd chanted Wednesday outside of the State House.

The bill, called the "Healthy Youth Act," is spearheaded in the state House by Worcester Rep. Jim O’Day. It focuses on age-appropriate sex and relationship education, is inclusive of queer youth and allows for parents to opt their child out if they feel more comfortable talking with them at home.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, a group opposed to the bill, say they believe this bill would take away the rights of the school district to decide what is right in the classroom. Staff attorney wrote in a statement to Spectrum News, "The misleadingly named 'Healthy Youth Act' will harm kids and strip away local control of sex education from school districts.

"Under the HYA, every school district in the Commonwealth that offers sex education will be required to implement 'comprehensive sex education.' Comprehensive sex ed, or CSE, is a specific type of sex education that indoctrinates kids as young as kindergarten into sexual and gender confusion, teaches middle schoolers how to engage in 'safe' sex, including anal and oral sex, and instructs teens on how to access abortion and birth control without parental consent. If this bill passes, we expect to see a mass movement of parents to opt their kids out of sex ed, or out of public schools entirely.”

At the State House on Wednesday, speakers took the microphone with their stories, including Ben McGrath, a student at Worcester Tech. He feels his health education isn’t enough, and he wants to make sure that consent is taught early and often in his school and others.

“I know people and I have seen it first-hand that students don’t know about sex ed, and they don’t know about consent,” McGrath said. “It’s a vital part of our everyday lives. I know that our health classes are not what they should be, and they haven’t been.”

Guidelines like the bill were announced by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education last month. This bill would expand on that guidance.

“We are really setting them up to fail in this world if we aren’t giving them the information to make healthy decisions but to seek out and get the treatment they might need,” said El Martinez, a Worcester-based public health worker.