Proposed Illinois bill defines consent for sex education classes

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois lawmaker has proposed a bill that would provide a specific definition of consent for schools to use when the subject comes up during sex education classes.

Illinois law currently doesn't offer a specific definition of consent. The bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ann Williams would direct schools to define it as "a freely given agreement to sexual activity," The State Journal-Register reported.

The bill also specifies that the way a person is dressed wouldn't imply consent, that consent for a past sexual activity wouldn't apply to future activities and that consent could be withdrawn at any time.

Almost 12 percent of high school girls and more than 6 percent of high school boys in Illinois reported being sexually assaulted in 2015, according to Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a group commonly known as SIECUS that advocates for comprehensive sexual education curriculums. The national average was 10 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys.

Williams, who is from Chicago, said she's sponsoring the measure because she saw a lack of discussion regarding consent as officials looked to address sexual assault.

"I began to hear from constituents, many moms, who felt that what was missing from the conversation with their kids is how to prevent the assault in the first place," Williams said. "Missing from the conversation was how to teach what consent is and what consent isn't."

Boundaries and respect are important elements of consent, said Brigid Leahy, director of governmental relations for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

"People, including young people, have sex, and it's about time that we have an honest conversation about that," Leahy said. "When sexuality is approached with silence, young people can experience violence, they can have an increased risk of negative outcomes, and they can have unhealthy relationships."


Information from: The State Journal-Register,