WA Superintendent: Grades K-4 won’t teach sexual topics with sex ed bill

Jan 23, 2020, 10:31 AM
Sex education, sex-ed bill...
A sex bill has been passed in Olympia. (AP)

A sex ed bill that passed in the Washington State Senate and is now being heard in the House of Representatives has some parents up in arms, as KTTH’s Jason Rantz previously reported — but Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal assured them that there is nothing to worry about.

Senate Bill 5395, which passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now in the House in the form of House Bill 1407, mandates “comprehensive sexual health education” for grades K through 12.

However, Reykdal said that this does not mean first-graders will be learning about birth control. Instead, he said, kindergartners through fourth-graders will learn more basic information about their bodies that does not approach sexual topics.

“We actually don’t even talk about sex in early elementary school, if you look at the bill. We don’t talk about STDs in those early years,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “We talk about protecting their bodies in case they’re physically assaulted or somebody is inappropriately touching them. We start to give them the skills and the language to know about privacy, so that they can report it to an adult.”

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In middle school and especially in high school, the more mature topics of reproduction, STDs, and sexual assault are addressed. These lessons build on concepts taught in previous grades, such as physiology.

“We do teach reproduction, generally, in fifth and sixth grade, which is about anatomy, physiology, and reproduction organs,” he said. “That is exactly the science that should be taught.”

In a packet of proposed lesson plans from Advocates for Youth, one lesson recommended for second-graders would have students learn in detail about genitalia, with the learning objective that students will be able to “use proper names for body parts, including male and female anatomy.”

However, Reykdal said that this particular lesson would more likely be appropriate for fifth grade or older. He noted that any submitted curriculum must be approved by his office and by the individual school board for each school district.

“That’s not age appropriate — we’ve never taught that stuff to kindergarten through fourth grade and we will not,” he said.

He also stressed that no student will be required to participate in these classes.

“The bill retains — very explicitly, for the first time — that parents can opt out of this at any grade level at any time,” he said. “They do not have to participate in this work because we do want to empower parents … the citizen, the voter, the parent, the taxpayer has total control of their learning in this space.”

Parents are even encouraged to come into the classroom and observe the classes mandated by the sex ed bill.

The bill was deemed necessary because of increases in STDs and sexual assault among young people.

“We have got to reduce sexual assaults and sexually transmitted infections, and we know through education we can do that,” Reykdal said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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WA Superintendent: Grades K-4 won’t teach sexual topics with sex ed bill