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What age should kids start learning sex ed? In Chicago, it's kindergarten

How soon is too soon to talk about sex in schools?
How soon is too soon to talk about sex in schools?
Photo by c.a.muller via Flickr Creative Commons

When it comes to talking to kids about sex -- what should they know and when? I was wondering about this last night, when I stumbled on a show on Nick Jr where an interviewer was pretending to be a small child, asking people those oh-so innocent questions that get parents all tangled up. “What is intercourse?” “Why does my penis change size?” “What’s that tiny diaper you wear, Mom?”

Put on the spot, the parents were embarrassed, tongue tied and generally came up with odd responses. Which got me wondering what a parent should say when a young child asks these kinds of questions. How young is too young to talk about it?

In California, schools have to teach HIV/AIDS prevention once in middle school and once in high school, according to the Department of Education.

That's what Chicago used to do, too. But the board of education there recently decided to begin sex education in the first year of school. Kindergarteners through third graders will learn basics like anatomy and reproduction, as well as a 101 on appropriate and inappropriate touching. The school district is quick to point out that parents who object can opt their child out.

Older children will continue the standard sex-ed, learning about sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and abstinence. A big part of the Chicago school’s sexual education is teaching about the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. And now the school district will also cover gender identity and sexual orientation. The goal, according to the school board, is to promote tolerance and prevent bullying.

“It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors and relationships,”  Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the CEO of the Chicago Public School System,  said in a statement.

What do you think? Is 6 years old too young to start learning about sex?