Youths ask Massachusetts legislators to listen

  • Ailish Doherty, a member of the Get Real Teen Council, speaks at a youth lobbying event at the Massachusetts Statehouse, Feb. 22, 2018. Doherty talked about what she learned, and didn’t learn, from her school’s sex-education curriculum. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

  • Brian Chandler, Boston GLASS, speaks at a youth lobbying event at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Feb. 22, 2018. Chandler shared his personal experience and voiced support for the Healthy Youth Act. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

  • Brian Chandler, Boston GLASS, speaks at a youth lobbying event at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Feb. 22, 2018. Chandler shared his personal experience and voiced support for the Healthy Youth Act. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

  • Marchers round the corner of Tremont and Park streets in Boston, Feb. 22, 2018. The youth rally-goers urged legislators to pass criminal justice reform legislation and improve youth employment opportunities. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

  • Marchers round the corner of Tremont and Park streets in Boston, Feb. 22, 2018. The youth rally-goers urged legislators to pass criminal justice reform legislation and improve youth employment opportunities. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

  • The rally halted at the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse Feb. 22. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

  • Marchers make their way up Park St. on their way to the Statehouse in Boston on Feb. 22, 2018. Some of the rally-goers carried signs and chanted while others rode bikes. CHRISTINE LYTWYNEC

For the Gazette
Published: 2/23/2018 10:37:42 PM

BOSTON — Around the country, young people are raising their voices for increased gun control in the wake of yet another mass shooting. In Massachusetts, many are using their midwinter break to make their voices heard on other issues.

Inside the Statehouse Thursday, Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts sponsored a Youth Lobby Day, bringing students face to face with state representatives to voice support for the Healthy Youth Act, which would require that sex education be medically accurate, age-appropriate and LGBTQ-inclusive.

Brian Chandler of Boston Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services spoke about how he felt the current sex-education curriculum failed him.

“Like many of my fellow LGBT students, all while I went through this, there was still nothing I saw in the media nor in the classroom that taught me it was OK to be me. This led to the eventual four suicide attempts within my seventh-grade year,” Chandler said. “Sex ed absolutely needs to prevent students from being left out of the universal conversation about sex by being more inclusive.”

“We all deserve to learn medically accurate, age-appropriate, unbiased information about our bodies. Everyone deserves to know how their body functions,” said Ailish Doherty, a member of the Get Real Teen Council.

Meanwhile, another group of young people, organized by I Have a Future, marched through the streets of Boston and made their way up Park Street to the front steps of the Statehouse. They want the Legislature to pass a criminal justice reform measure and add more support for youth jobs.

The reform bill would allow expungement of criminal records for some juvenile crimes. Supporters say that criminal records obtained in youth are hard to overcome because they make it hard to find a job.

“They have this vast amount of money that they’re not spending properly on youth. They’re exploiting it for other purposes that don’t need to be funded, and they’re letting the youth suffer. A lot of youth are going homeless, a lot of youth are going into starvation, a lot of youth are suffering each and every day — and all could be saved by giving them a job,” said Trent Jordan, 17, of Dorchester. “In order for us to actually get our action, we have to come to the Statehouse because this is where everything happens.”

There was one thing the young people both inside and outside the Statehouse wanted — to be heard.

“Making sure that youth voices are heard is something I’m always passionate about. Any chance I see to make sure that the city of Boston is taking a step in the right direction, I’m always going to be there,” Jordan said.

Christine Lytwynec writes for the Gazette from the Boston University Statehouse Program.


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