Giving Our Kids the Tools They Need to Live Healthy Lives

The most important job many of us will ever have is being a parent. It involves a critical responsibility — to give children the tools they need to live happy, healthy lives.

Teachers and schools are some of our most important partners in fulfilling that responsibility. Together, we make sure our children have fundamental language skills to communicate and understand new ideas. We train our kids in math and science to explore and better understand our world. We train them in civics and history to participate in their communities and learn from the past.

As the country grapples with issues of consent, harassment, bullying, and gender discrimination, it is critical that we ensure that our children also have the tools they need to build healthy relationships.

Evidence-based, comprehensive sex education helps adolescents to learn to base relationships on understanding and respect. It roots out common and dangerous myths about health and pregnancy. It highlights concepts like consent and communication. And it gives kids a safe place to practice them.

These lessons aren’t just the foundation of healthy relationships. They are also the foundation of healthy homes, communities, and places of business. By teaching young people these lessons early, we can help them prevent costly mistakes that can irreparably change lives. We can create a safer and more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students who are disproportionately affected by assault and bullying. And we can help prevent the kind of behavior that has made the #MeToo movement so important and so overdue.

Despite the clear benefits of evidence-based sex education, the Trump Administration is taking the country in the wrong direction. President Trump’s budget eliminates a powerful program geared towards reducing teen pregnancies and spends hundreds of millions on ineffective abstinence-only sex education. The American medical community has found these programs to be a failure, even on their own terms: they are worse than comprehensive programs at convincing kids to delay having sex or abstain entirely. President Trump’s approach makes our kids and our communities less safe.

Massachusetts must do better. Senator Sal DiDomenico’s Healthy Youth Act — which passed the Senate last summer — would ensure that if Massachusetts students enter a sex ed classroom, the information they receive will be age-appropriate and medically accurate. The bill gives parents the opportunity to review the material their kids receive. And it allows parents to opt out of a program if they believe the program is not in their child’s best interest. A parallel bill was filed in the House by Reps. Jim O’Day and Paul Brodeur.

It is time for the House to send the Healthy Youth Act to the Governor’s desk. The bill is an overdue down-payment on our children’s future, and one I am proud to support.

Quentin Palfrey is a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He previously served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in President Obama’s White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and as Chief of the Health Care Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. More information about his campaign is available here: www.quentinpalfrey.com