The way your children learn about sex is changing

Barb Crist's health class at Quincy Senior High.

The Quincy School District has always taught abstinence as its number one priority in its sex education classes, but starting January 1, 2014 all public schools in Illinois will be required to include information on birth control and STDs.

Illinois Governor Quinn signed legislation on August 16, 2013 that will require public schools that teach sex education to teach also about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases - not just abstinence.

The new law is intended to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Stephanie Erwin is the president of the Quincy School Board. She said the new law will require the district to expand its curriculum to include more content.

"Under the new law, they are going to want us to open the dialogue to be able to talk about STDs, preventing pregnancies and I know the issue has stirred up controversy," Erwin said.

Barb Crist is a health educator at Quincy Senior High. She said currently the class spends a day or two discussing STDs and they only touch on contraceptives during the course of a semester. But now there will have to be some changes.

"Starting in January, we're going to make a few little changes but nothing major," Crist said. We're going to definitely talk about our STDs and educate the students that it is abstinence based. We really prefer that, but we know it's not reality for some people. And then we're going to focus on the contraceptives to help them at least make them better decisions hopefully."

Beverly Simmons is the director of Family Planning in Quincy. She says comprehensive education is key to helping students making healthy decisions.

"Abstinence is so important in what we do," Simmons said. "However, they need to have the facts that could possibly lead to unplanned pregnancy, STDs ... to help them make healthy choices," Simmons said. "If we give them the information they're going to make really good choices. I think getting the education from the schools, getting the medical facts, is really important, but I think parents also need to be a part of that to give the values to the teens. If they would just feed back on each other, I think it would be great."

"I think the more we can educate them, to provide them with choices, the better it's going to be for them," Crist said. "With today's society, we have to make sure we educate them as much as we possibly can."

Erwin says abstinence will remain the main topic at Quincy Public Schools.

"Of course we're not going to be so naive that there isn't sexual activity occurring with some students," Erwin said. "But we need to help them, as best we can, make better choices. Abstinence will be the main topic, but hopefully we will educate some of those who don't always make the best choices."

Simmons has been speaking with teens for nine years. She says after getting the information, teens have a very different response to sex.

"Most of the teens that I talk to in the high school as well as the college age, they always say, 'I wish I had had this information earlier. If I had the information I would have made different choices,'" she said.

While some parents may think giving kids this information encourages them to have sex, Simmons says the issue is really about providing education.

"Comprehensive education is not saying go out and have sex, in fact, it's more of saying these are your risk factors," Simmons said. "Protect yourself if you choose to have sex, but abstinence is 100 percent effective."

"I'm going to be honest with you, by the time they're juniors in high school, they've pretty much made that decision," Crist said. "But I do know that when I provide information about different types of birth control, they're like 'oh my goodness I didn't know that' or 'I didn't know that side-effect' or 'I didn't know this was really gonna happen,' and it makes them think twice. And I've had a lot of students say 'I'm not going to have sex at all, I'm going to wait until marriage, I'm going to wait until it's my time. I'm not going to be pressured into it,' and that's what we're really pushing for."

Parents will receive a notification regarding the changes in the course matter.

Students are given the choice to sit out during the sex education section if it goes against their values or if it makes them uncomfortable.