Bill to require sex education for all K-12 students passed by state Senate
Sex education: It’s taught in high schools, but should it be taught in kindergarten? It very well might be soon, if a bill passed by the Washington State Senate Wednesday gets signed into law.
Right now, there is a statewide curriculum for sex education that allows schools to opt in. Under SB-5395, sex ed would be mandated by 2020 for all children between 6th and 12th grade, and by 2021, that mandate would include all K-12 students in public schools.
At a hearing last week, dozens came out in support.
“As someone who was in an abusive relationship in high school, it is very difficult to know when you’re getting into those situations. If I would have had the knowledge of what those signs are, I could have avoided that,” said one woman in testimony.
Others spoke out against the plan.
“Washington state is not honoring diversity, but cramming a solitary viewpoint on all regardless of their views, squashing diversity,” said one man in opposition.
Still, Washington State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal stressed to lawmakers that this is vital education for all children.
“When one-third of girls in our state walk out of high school and walk across the stage, and they’ve been sexually assaulted, they’ve been coerced, they’ve been forced into inappropriate touch — and one-sixth of our boys — we have a medical crisis,” said Reykdal. “The linkages to suicide are real — the disproportionate impact of sexual assault for Native American girls, the LGBTQ community, and students with disabilities is profound.”
That set up a heated, over two-hour debate on the Senate floor Wednesday, with Republicans standing firmly against the measure, and offering more than a dozen amendments.
Among the biggest critics to the bill was Republican Senator Randi Becker.
“I think of when that little child comes home and says, ‘mommy, daddy, I had this class today — I’m scared to death, what is this all about?'” she posited.
Also speaking out against it was Republican Senator Mike Padden, who worried that taking away local districts’ ability to opt in or out is going to be a problem.
“We’re telling a whole class of folks and citizens here, ‘we as a state are rejecting your values,'” said Padden.
And, like many other Republicans on the Senate floor, he was very passionate about his opposition.
“I wish I could save some of my ‘no’ votes from other bills, put them all together, and have 20 here — that’s how strongly I feel about this,” he continued.
But for Democrats like Sen. Lisa Wellman, learning about consent and recognizing abuse early on is paramount to the safety of children everywhere.
“At its core, this bill is about safety. It’s about making sure that students have a safe place to ask questions, fully understand consent, and have the information they need to make safe decisions,” said Wellman.
Auburn Democrat Sen. Claire Wilson agreed, noting how sex education empowers young children for the future.
“It’s about personal health, it’s about important life decisions, it’s about medical and economic consequences — all the things we want our young scholars to understand so that they can make the best choices for their health and their future,” she said.
Now that’s passed through the Senate, SB-5395 will move on to the House for further consideration.
Additional reporting from MyNorthwest staff