Illinois State Profile
The Department of Human Services and community-based organizations in Illinois received approximately $8,815,804 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Illinois Sexuality Education Law and Policy
The Illinois School Code states that course instruction in grades six through 12 must include instruction on the prevention, transmission, and spread of AIDS. Any school that teaches sexuality education must also emphasize that, “abstinence is the expected norm in that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only protection that is 100% effective against unwanted teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome when transmitted sexually.”
The Comprehensive Health Education Program, which is a component of the Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act,states that the following areas must be addressed in all elementary and secondary schools:
All courses that discuss sexual intercourse are to include the hazards of sexual intercourse, the latest medical information on the failure and success rates of condoms, and explanations of when it is unlawful for males to have sexual relations with females. Course material must also include information regarding the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, responsible parenting, and the availability of confidential adoption services. According to the Illinois School Code, “honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage” must be taught.
If any school district provides courses of instruction “designed to promote wholesome and comprehensive understanding of the emotional, psychological, physiological, hygienic, and social responsibility aspects of family life, then these courses will include teaching alternatives to abortion that are age-appropriate; and whenever such courses are provided in any grades 6–12, then such courses will also include instruction on the prevention, transmission and spread of AIDS.” School districts can also provide parenting education for grades 6–12 and include such instruction in the courses of study regularly taught.
Parents or guardians may remove their children from any or all sexuality education, family life programs, and/or STD/HIV programs. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See codes: 105 ILCS 110/2, 105 ILCS 110/3, 105 ILCS 5/27-9.1, 105 ILCS 5/27-9.2, 105 ILCS 27-11, Public Act 92-0023, and Illinois School Code.
Bill to Require Sexual Assault Awareness in Comprehensive Health Education Programs
Introduced in April 2007, House Bill 3677 would have amended the Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Education Act, various Acts relating to the governance of public universities in the state, and the Public Community College Act in order to require secondary schools with comprehensive health education programs to include sexual assault awareness. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate Committee on Rules in April 2007, but failed to move out of the committee.
Legislation amends HIV counseling for pregnancy women
Introduced in February 2007, House Bill 1759 amends the Perinatal HIV Prevention Act. It requires healthcare professionals who provide services to pregnant women to recommend HIV testing to patients and offer HIV counseling. However, if a patient declines in writing or has already received an HIV test during pregnancy, the healthcare professional need not recommend testing or counseling. The legislation became Public Act No. 95-702 in November 2007.
Bill Would Require Department of Public Health to Raise Awareness about HPV
Introduced in February 2007, House Bill 2033 would have amended the Communicable Disease Prevention Act and required the Department of Public Health (DPH) to raise public awareness about human papilloma virus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine by producing and distributing informational material to the public. The bill was sent to the Committee on Rules in May 2007, but failed to move out of the committee.
Age-Appropriate Sex Education Grant Program Act Introduced
Introduced in January 2006 as Senate Bill 2267, the Age-Appropriate Sex Education Grant Program would establish a grant program for curricula development and implementation of sexuality education programs. Eligible applicants would include public school districts, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and partnerships between a school district and a community-based organization. Programs established through these grants must be age-appropriate and medically accurate, stress the value of abstinence, include information about contraception, and encourage family communication about sexuality. The bill passed out of the Health & Human Services Committee and was referred to the Senate Committees on Rules.
District Defends Controversial Book
Parents at Kinzie Elementary school complained about the violent and graphic nature of Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War which is required reading for seventh grade students. In the book, two male students suffer harassment from the high school’s gang, whose illicit activities are sanctioned by the administration. The American Library Association ranked the work 20th on its 2006 list of contested books for “its depiction of swearing, masturbation and violence.”2
“I’ll be dammed if they are going to be reading this filth,” the parent of a second grader and kindergartner said.3 The parent of both a seventh and fourth grader complained of his younger child hearing about the novel when students discussed it outside of class. He says that the school stripped parents of rights by having children read the novel.
Despite the complaints, school administrators supported the book. In a letter sent home to parents, the principal noted, “This book was selected for the very important, complex themes it covers, including conformity and the ethical implications of choices we make.”4 He also warned parents that forbidding a child to read the book could “have a significant negative effect on the final course grade.”5
Relentless Teacher and Administrative Harassment Inspires GSA Formation
A junior at a local high school is advocating for LGBT student safety, claiming that while she was in middle school teachers stalked her, disrupted her studies, and encouraged her peers to exclude her from social activities.
The student claims that administrators changed her schedule in an effort to split up her and a female friend, apparently at the request of the friend’s mother. “The teachers pulled my friends out of class and said they couldn’t be friends with me,” the young woman, who is a straight-A student, said.6 She also claimed that teachers followed her into the bathroom, and that administrators kicked her off the school council. The student and her mother enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and were able to restore her leadership position and previous schedule.
To ensure that other students never experience what she did, the junior helped found a Gay-Straight Alliance at Normal Community West High School. The group had a membership of about 20 students during the 2006–07 school year. The new superintendent, who was not involved with the student’s middle school case, said that the district condemns student abuse in all forms, “Anything that’s disrespectful to people or done to harm an individual in any way [is not] acceptable.”7
Showing of Brokeback Mountain Provokes Half Million-Dollar Lawsuit
The grandparents of an eighth grader at a local school are seeking $500,000 in damages from the Chicago Board of Education. They claim their granddaughter was psychologically traumatized to the point of needing therapy after seeing the film Brokeback Mountain.8
According to the lawsuit, a substitute teacher showed the film to students in eighth grade without parental consent despite the fact that it had an R-rating, indicating it was only appropriate for people ages 17 and over. The suit also alleges that the before showing the film, the teacher closed the classroom door and said, “What happens here stays here.”9 The 12-year-old’s guardian believes the teacher knew that her actions were wrong.10
The lawsuit is not the first time the grandparents’ have expressed discontent with the district. In 2005, the grandfather took issue with curse words in some required reading. He said, “I feel the lawsuit was necessary because of the warning I had already given them on the literature they were giving out to children to read. I told them it was against our faith.”11
Students Fight for Right to Wear Anti-Gay Apparel
Two students at Neuqua Valley High School launched a federal lawsuit against their school board, principal, and dean. They claim that the First Amendment rights of students opposed to homosexuality were violated when they were asked to remove t-shirts with slogans reading “Be Happy, Not Gay.” The students hoped for a judgment labeling the school’s dress code policy illegal.12
The students were protesting the National Day of Silence, a nation-wide event where students show their support for LGBT individuals by remaining silent all day. As the Day of Silence has gained popularity and support, many students across the country, often prompted by conservative groups, have protested the event on the day it occurs or the following day.
When students in Neuqua Valley protested by wearing the t-shirts, administrators asked them to rephrase the slogan, change out of the t-shirts, or leave the campus.13An attorney from the Christian law group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), who is representing one of the students, called the school pro-homosexual, adding that the client’s viewpoint was “severely restricted.”14 The district, however, points to its dress code which explicitly forbids “garments or jewelry with messages… which are derogatory, inflammatory, sexual, or discriminatory.”15 The superintendent argued that schools must regulate speech not conducive to a safe, educational environment.16
A U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of the district, saying it worked to ensure “a positive and tolerant school environment with an emphasis on respectful attitudes and discourse.”17 Since the administrators offered students alternatives, the judge added, the school did not violate the students’ right to free speech.18 The Alliance Defense Fund, however, claimed the decision was “viewpoint discrimination” and an infringement of the students’ constitutional rights and filed a federal appeal. SIECUS will continue monitoring the situation.
Parents Accuse High School of Promoting Homosexuality, Pushing Political Agenda
March 2007;Deerfield, IL
Several parents of students at Deerfield High School were upset that their children were discussing sexual orientation as part of a student panel intended to help freshmen adjust to high school.
Parents objected to the inclusion of students from the Gay and Straight Alliance Club (GSA) in Freshman Advisory, a monthly immersion class that covers topics facing freshmen including hazing, bullying, studying skills, alleviating stress, social, and self-awareness, and planning for the four years in high school.19
The GSA presentation is part of the social and self-awareness unit of Freshman Advisory, which takes place during the second half of the school year. Other groups represented in that unit include Minority Report, a group for minority students, and the students-with-disabilities panel.20
The concerned parents argued that by including the GSA, the school is pushing a controversial political agenda in the classroom. School administrators countered by saying that the curriculum is intended to promote tolerance and respect. They also pointed out that while the classes are mandatory, parents can choose to remove their children from the days when sexual orientation is discussed.21
Teacher Faces Suspension and Termination after Inappropriate Sex Ed Lesson
Parents in Thornton, IL became concerned over a handout used in a lesson on HIV/AIDS. Students in the eighth grade class were asked to read aloud from a print out published by an international HIV/AIDS education organization that discussed the G-spot, anal sex, masturbation tips, sexual positions, and orgasms. The teacher apparently overlooked the website’s frequently asked questions for youth which covered more age-appropriate topics such as relationships, peer pressure, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections, and instead printed out the ones created for adults. The teacher also apparently dismissed complaints from students, telling them the information was part of the curriculum.
The Illinois Campaign for Responsible Sex Education, which advocates for medically accurate and age-appropriate comprehensive education, agreed that the handout was inappropriate, calling the material unsuitable for eighth graders. The school board placed the educator on administrative leave and decided not to renew his contract for the next school year.
Parents Oppose Book Demonstrating the Variety of Families
November 2006; Shiloh, IL
A book depicting the diversity of human and animal family formation has Shiloh parents calling for restricted access. And Tango Makes Three, a story about two male penguins parenting a female baby penguin, is directed at children ages four to eight. The story, based on a real-life case at the Central Park Zoo, is meant to encourage tolerance of diverse family make-ups. Despite the intended message, some parents focused on the book’s suggestion that the two male penguins featured in the book may be in love. They argued that any discussion of sexuality is too mature an issue for kids.22 And, the executive director of the Illinois Family Life Institute suggested that schools should not be acclimating young children to “new social experiments.”23
The school convened a panel to review the book under the guidance of the superintendent. The superintendent, however, was resolute in her support of the book, “My feeling is that a library is to serve an entire population,” she said. “It means you represent different families in a society—different religions, different beliefs. That’s the role of a school library.”24
The Illinois Department of Human Services received $1,834,583 in federal Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds in Fiscal Year 2007. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. In Illinois, the state contributes $135,000 in state revenue as part of the match. The remainder of the match is provided by sub-grantees through in-kind services. The Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding is overseen by the Illinois Department of Human Services which runs the Illinois Abstinence Education Program.
The program, “offer[s] teens the information and tools they needed to abstain from sexual activity, alcohol and other drugs and focus on their future goals and dreams for their lives. Participants are impelled to think specifically about their future regarding education, career, family, and community involvement and encouraged to consider the benefits of sexual abstinence, regardless of previous sexual activity, in accomplishing their future goals and dreams.”26
The Illinois Abstinence Education Program participates in the statewide Illinois Abstinence Coalition, a group of 30 state and federally funded organizations created to deliver consistent abstinence-only-until-marriage messages throughout the state through public service announcements and other media.27 The coalition maintains a website (www.abstinencefirst.org) that includes contact information for abstinence-only-until-marriage providers in the state, current news, and information for parents. One of the coalition’s public service announcements is a billboard that reads, “Because it’s the most precious gift I can give to my future husband.”28
The Illinois Abstinence Coalition website includes several references to Project Reality, a national organization that supports abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and creates curricula and other materials. The organization, based in Illinois, created and distributes two of the most popular abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula: A.C. Green’s Game Plan and Navigator curricula.
SIECUS has reviewed both of these curricula. Our review of Navigator found that it relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. Navigator fails to provide important information on sexual health, and the format and underlying biases of the curriculum dictate specific values and discourage critical thinking. For example, the authors explain, “Navigator does not promote the use of contraceptives for teens. No contraceptive device is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. Besides, students who do not exercise self-control to remain abstinent are not likely to exercise self-control in the use of a contraceptive device.” (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on Game Plan.)
There are 30 Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantees in Illinois. This includes five crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), four health departments, and various other community organizations, predominantly located in the Chicago region.
The five CPCs are Caris Prevention Services, Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs, Shawnee Crisis Pregnancy Center, Society for the Preservation of Human Dignity, and Southside Pregnancy Center. CPCs typically advertise as providing medical services and then use anti-abortion propaganda, misinformation, and fear and shame tactics to dissuade women facing unintended pregnancy from exercising their right to choose.
The Society for the Preservation of Human Dignity operates in the suburbs of Chicago and refers to itself as “PhD.” Its abstinence program is called “Independence Highway.” According to the organization, this program “reflects on the freedom teens gain when they chose to postpone sex until marriage.” The organization conducts its major programs with the assistance of several local churches and its annual fundraiser is titled “Spirit of Life Gala.”
Like many CPCs, Southside Pregnancy Center relies on misleading information about abortion. On its website the organization discusses abortion saying, “Abortion is not just a simple medical procedure; for many women it’s a life changing event with physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences.” (See the CBAE and ALFA section for more information on Caris Prevention Services, another CPC sub-grantee.)
Fulfilling Our Responsibility Unto Mankind (FORUM), another Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantee, operates in Chicago and runs a variety of educational programs. Its mission reads, “All human beings must be developed sufficiently to participate as a functional, active citizen in America. This can only be done by activating in a person that which is implanted in them by God and cultivating it sufficiently to achieve the purpose for which they were created.”
The Confederation of Spanish-American Families (CSAF) is both a Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage and CBAE grantee. This organization focuses on providing abstinence programming in Latino schools. The CSAF uses two popular fear-based abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, Game Plan and Aspire. (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on both of these curricula.).
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are nine CBAE grantees in Illinois: Abstinence and Marriage Education Partnership, Caris Prevention Service, Confederation of Spanish-American Families, CareNet Pregnancy Services of DuPage (receives two grants), CareFirst Pregnancy Center, Committee on the Status of Women/Project Reality, Family Centered Education Agency, Inc.; Lydia Home Association, and Metro-East Crisis Pregnancy Center. There are two AFLA grantees in Illinois: Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center (receives two grants) and Demoiselle 2 Femme.
Abstinence and Marriage Education Partnership provides training for the Aspire: Live your life. Be free. curricula free of charge throughout the United States. Aspire was created by Scott Phelps, president of Abstinence and Marriage Resources, which is part of Abstinence and Marriage Education Partnership. SIECUS reviewed ASPIRE: Live your life. Be free and found that it is based on one set of values and opinions—that marriage should be everyone’s ultimate goal and that sex outside of marriage is wrong— which it tries to pass off as universally held truths. In an effort to convince students that these opinions are facts, the curriculum provides incomplete and biased information, promotes fear and shame, and undermines young people’s confidence in their own decision-making abilities. For example, students are asked which life decision—college, career, or marriage—will have the most impact on their life. The answer is marriage because “College is for a few years, and you may have a number of careers. But marriage is for life.”29
Abstinence and Marriage Education Partnership sponsors a number of conferences about abstinence. One conference, “Restoring the Dream,” featured national abstinence-only-until-marriage speakers Scott Phelps, Maggie Gallagher, Glenn T. Stanton, Rozario Slack , and Joel & Sofia Gonzales, who were brought to the conference “to equip educators with the message of marriage.”30 Maggie Gallagher is the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and the author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better-Off Financially.31 The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy’s mission is to provide “research and public education on ways that laws and public policy can strengthen marriage as a social institution.”32 Gallagher previously faced controversy when she accepted a government contract from the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the Healthy Marriages Initiative while also promoting the initiative in a private magazine column.33 Glenn T. Stanton is an employee of Focus on the Family, an organization whose mission statement is “to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide.”34
Scott Phelps also co-authored A.C. Green’s Game Plan and Navigator, two curricula that are distributed by Project Reality, another CBAE grantee in Illinois. SIECUS reviewed Game Plan and found that in order to convince high school students to remain abstinent until marriage, the curriculumrelies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and family structure. In addition, Game Plan fails to provide important information on sexual health including how students can seek testing and treatment if they suspect they may have an STD. Finally, the format and underlying biases of the curriculum do not allow for cultural, community, and individual values, and discourage critical thinking and discussions of alternate points of view in the classroom. For example, Game Plan states that, “Even if you’ve been sexually active, it’s never too late to say no. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. You might feel guilty or untrustworthy, but you can start over again.”35 (See the Title V section for more information on Navigator.)
Caris Prevention Services, a CPC, conducts abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in schools, churches, and youth-oriented organizations throughout Cook County, Illinois.36 Caris Prevention Services claims to have reached thousands of students through its abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.37 The organization also sponsors “Breakdown” which is described as “the new generation of Edutainment, bringing the message of self control and hope to a generation of young people looking for the REAL thing.”38 As part of Breakdown, young people perform music, hip-hop dance, and drama, they also speak to peers and produce videos about abstinence until marriage, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pregnancy, and other topics.39
Caris Prevention Services’ website, www.notyetnotnow.com, includes a link to “Caris in the Media.” One story, “The Ring Ceremony,” described a virginity pledge event at which a Caris staff member was the guest of honor. Research has found that under certain conditions these pledges may help some adolescents delay sexual intercourse. When they work, pledges help this select group of adolescents delay the onset of sexual intercourse for an average of 18 months—far short of marriage. More importantly, the studies also found that those young people who took a pledge were one-third less likely to use contraception when they did become sexually active than their peers who had not pledged. These teens are therefore more vulnerable to the risks of unprotected sexual activity such as unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Further research has confirmed that although some students who take pledges delay intercourse, ultimately they are equally as likely to contract an STD as their non-pledging peers. The study also found that STD rates were higher in communities where a significant proportion (over 20 percent) of the young people had taken virginity pledges.40
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007