by Meredith Schoenfeld-Hicks, Manager, State Strategies
The Wisconsin Healthy Youth Alliance can pat itself on the back! More than 50 member organizations brought together the public health community, educators, youth serving and advocacy organizations, and student and parent activists throughout the state to pass the Healthy Youth Act (HYA). The Healthy Youth Act passed the State Assembly on November 5th 2009 and the Senate on January 28th 2010. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jim Doyle on February 24th 2010.
This important legislation ensures that the most current standards of sex education are being taught and that public schools are using programs proven to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates. The bill updates the core elements of what a sex education program must include if offered in Wisconsin and does away with ineffective abstinence only policies. Studies estimate that Wisconsin taxpayers are currently paying $273 million dollars a year to treat teen sexually transmitted diseases and costs associated with teen childbearing.
The Healthy Youth Act has five key components.
- School boards that decide to teach sex education do so in a medically accurate, age appropriate way that addresses key elements proven to work at reducing sexually transmitted infections and unintended teen pregnancies, including providing information about abstinence and contraceptives when age appropriate
- School districts that opt to not teach sex education must send a notice home to parents
- The State apply for federal funds that are allocated for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs
- Deletes a provision in current statutes that forbids volunteer health care providers from providing sex education instruction in areas concerning human sexuality and contraception
- Supports the current ability of parents to opt children out of sex education curriculum.
This legislation also ensures that LGBT youth receive non-biased sex education materials that are medically accurate and include information about reducing risky behaviors.