For most of IMSA’s history, sex education has been largely ignored. Res Life programming carried the bulk of the responsibility for educating students about sexual health and safety, but what students learned from their RCs and how consistently that education was given has varied widely.
As a residential academy, IMSA has good reason to taken sex ed seriously. Part of the academy’s historical difficulty with sex ed stems from the fact that many RCs are simply not equipped with the adequate resources or training. As such, it can be difficult and uncomfortable for them to provide substantive sex ed because they simply don’t know where to begin.
In response to this issue, last semester, IMSA’s ACLU KYSHA Project Group, which currently includes seniors Sarah Wheeler, Sajal Shukla, and Irene Park, successfully worked with administrators to finally implement a version of inclusive and comprehensive sex ed in sophomore Navigation.
Following Senate Bill 818, which was passed in August of 2021 to outline better curricula for sex ed in Illinois, the student group collaborated with the ACLU of Illinois to write a Zine that detailed the content of the bill in simpler terms. After writing a proposal and winning $2,000 from the Stephanie Pace Marshall Innovation Grant last spring, the group decided to use their resources to ensure that everyone at IMSA was receiving sex ed.
According to Sarah Wheeler, a member of the student group and president of ACLU @ IMSA, “Sex ed at IMSA will be a part of sophomore Navigation, since the environment allows for safe discussion and is a program every IMSA student will go through at one point. We divided the core sex ed curriculum into three parts, which will each be taught by a sex ed professional, followed by small group discussion.”
For upperclassmen who have not undergone comprehensive sex ed, the Zine will be handed out to students in their residence halls sometime in the first semester. It includes resources for navigating identity, contraception, healthy relationships, and much more. Additionally, the RCs will be trained to ensure that they can answer questions the students may have about sex ed.
As a pilot program for what will hopefully become a permanent part of IMSA’s health curriculum, the new Navigation sex ed will hopefully empower the student body with the tools and resources they need to make healthy decisions.
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