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State mandatory sex education bill dead in Olympia (for now)

Chris Reykdal, Washington's Superintendent of Public Instruction. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The proposal for mandatory statewide sex education in all K-12 public schools in Washington appears dead in the Legislature, for now anyway.

RELATED: State sex-ed bill passed by Senate, moves on to House

The bill was requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. It would mandate a statewide — age appropriate — sex education curriculum for all of our public schools, starting in kindergarten.

It passed the Senate on party lines, and Reykdal and many Democrats expected it to easily make it to the House floor. But then, it hit a snag in the House education committee this week, when Democratic Chair Sharon Santos failed to bring it up for a vote before Wednesday’s committee deadline. It was a huge disappointment for Reykdal.

“Fifty-seven seats by Democrats – with a capital D – chose not to move an essential bill to protect kids by bringing them greater education. I continue to be dumbfounded as to the lack of movement,” Reykdal said.

Santos declined a request for an interview, but her explanation was caught by the The Stranger at a town hall a couple of weeks ago.

“While I can agree with the policy, the politics and the process of this bill were its undoing and its failing. As the chair of the House Education Committee, I knew nothing of this bill before it was filed,” Santos explained, when asked at the town hall, before suggesting another reason she wasn’t giving it a vote was because she was under the impression it would not get a vote on the House floor.

Whatever the case, it never came up for the committee before the deadline, and Reykdal believes it is a major loss for Washington students.

“It takes a real powerful bit of learning, which is sexual health education that’s comprehensive, but it’s age appropriate — and what we mean by that, is you don’t actually talk about sex with elementary school students,” Reykdal explained.

“You talk about inappropriate touch, and you talk about whether they have a safe adult if something happens to them, and you begin to talk about boys and girls and how they’re different. So there’s a development element to this that is appropriate and by middle school, you are talking about reproductive activity, and by high school, you’re definitely talking about STDs, sexual assault, and consent,” Reykdal added.

It’s that potential curriculum and the fact that it was going to be mandatory that brought out some strong opposition — especially from religious groups — according to Family Policy Institute of Washington Executive Director and former state senator Mark Miloscia.

“For goodness sakes, is there any respect for our folks who are Christian or who disagree with the agenda of the LBGTQ community?” Miloscia questioned.

“For some reason, parents are completely ignored in this debate. And do the schools work for Planned Parenthood, or do they work for parents? Planned Parenthood and LBGTQ community wants us to be concerned about their views, but what about us? This bill says that it’s inclusive, but it’s not inclusive of all the folks that I know of,” Miolscia added.

Miloscia says Christians and other religious groups also had major concerns about what the curriculum would be.

“Most religions — and science agrees — that lifelong, monogamous marriage that prioritizes, marriage, family children is better for a person, is better for their children, is better for their family,” Miloscia said.

RELATED: When should schools teach gender expression?

“This is the parent’s roles to teach values, the school district shouldn’t be teaching consent, when to have sex or not have sex. My goodness, there’s a huge gulf between the values of many folks in this country and across the planet on that particular question, and to think Planned Parenthood should be teaching our children their views on this,” he added.

Reykdal points out that though the bill doesn’t allow school districts to opt out, it does allow parents to opt out. More importantly, some of this curriculum would have been aimed at protecting students.

“I think what we know, particularly from the experience through lots of data, is that a whole bunch of young people – who either think about sexual activity or are engaged in it, or even stop short of sexual intercourse – don’t understand what consent is, they don’t understand what mutual permission means, so you see this rise of sexual assaults and then we see the after-effects of that,”Reykdal explained.

“You see college and universities just getting blasted with the amount of sexual misconduct and rape occurring, and what they will say is they have work to do, but they also look back at K-12 and say a lot of these students never had any formal education on what that means – and I agree with them,” Reykdal added.

Miloscia says most Christians — and other religious groups — do support some type of sex education so long as their facts and values are represented, something they did not feel they were getting in this process.

As for Reykdal, he’s not giving up on reviving the bill this session.

“The House could still move the bill out of committee, or they can find another bill to attach parts of it to or even stick some of it in the budget,” Reykdal said, vowing to bring it back next session if none of those efforts pan out.

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