Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


January 17, 2020

Massachusetts Senate Passes Two Bills

Making Curricular and Nutrition Improvement for Students

BOSTON-The Massachusetts Senate yesterday passed bills to modernize sex education curriculum and decrease hunger in schools throughout the Commonwealth.

“I am proud that my colleagues and I passed legislation that will benefit young people,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely, Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Education (D-Salem). “Nutritious meals form the building blocks for student success, and providing young people with medically- accurate and age-appropriate sex education will give students the tools they need to lead healthy lives.”

S.2459, An Act relative to healthy youth, will ensure that Massachusetts schools electing to provide their students with sex education use age-appropriate and medically-accurate curricula that cover a comprehensive range of topics. The legislation also calls for sex education to be inclusive and appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Currently, Massachusetts public schools that provide their students with health education that covers sexual activity do not necessarily do so in an age-appropriate and medically-accurate manner. S.2459 improves the status quo by requiring school districts that offer sex education to follow guidelines to ensure students receive age-appropriate, medically-accurate, and comprehensive information that covers:

  • the benefits of delaying sex;
  • human anatomy, reproduction, and sexual development;
  • effective contraceptive use;
  • prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs);
  • relationship and communication skills to form healthy relationships;
  • affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent; and
  • age-appropriate information about gender identity and sexual orientation, including resources that offer support to LGBTQ students.

The Senate passed similar versions of the Healthy Youth Act in prior sessions; this most recent version incorporates additional expert feedback. The legislation does not require schools to offer sex education and also protects the right of parents to remove their children from all or part of sex education if they chose to do so — an action protected by state law. In addition, S.2459 provides districts that teach sex education with updated guidance on how to notify parents about these programs.

Notification to parents and guardians must be in English as well as any other commonly spoken languages by parents. Districts must also have a process for parents to review the program instruction materials prior to the start of the course if requested by parents.

Sex education programs work best when they emphasize the value of delaying sex while also teaching students about the importance of protecting themselves from unintended consequences. As demonstrated by numerous studies, comprehensive sex education programs delay the initiation of sex; increase contraceptive use; lower the rates of STIs and unintended pregnancy among teens; and reduce reported levels of bullying towards LGBTQ youth in school.

A 2018 poll conducted by EMC Research showed overwhelming bipartisan support for sex education in Massachusetts, with 92% of likely voters agreeing that students should receive sex education in high school and 89% of likely voters agree that sex education should include comprehensive information, such as how to build healthy relationships and understand consent.

The Massachusetts Senate passed S.2460, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in high-poverty schools. The bill would require all public K-12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins.

This legislation would require approximately 600 Massachusetts schools serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the tardy bell through a variety of delivery models, including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go, and second-chance breakfast. This flexibility allows school districts to select the model that best fits their students’ needs.

Both pieces of legislation move to the House of Representative for consideration.