Sex ed bill inspired activist Maia Espinoza to run for superintendent

Mar 9, 2020, 2:55 PM
Espinoza, superintendent...
Maia Espinoza is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction. (Maia Espinoza)
(Maia Espinoza)

The comprehensive sex ed bill that just passed the Washington State Legislature has angered many parents who say that its curriculum is not age-appropriate — and it has inspired one of them to jump into the 2020 race for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Maia Espinoza, who directs the Center for Latino Leadership and in 2018 unsuccessfully ran for the Washington House of Representatives, said she was disturbed to see what her third-grader and middle-schooler could be learning in school thanks to the bill.

While advocates of comprehensive sex ed say it would keep lessons age-appropriate, covering consent and inappropriate touching in younger grades and only getting into sexual topics at puberty, parents who have seen the actual curriculum samples disagree. Lesson plans for second-graders include identifying parts of genitalia, and one book approved for fourth-graders shows graphic cartoons of people having sex in different positions.

“People who are in favor of this law being passed think that it’s about consent and think that we can opt out and think that we have curriculum options, but … in kindergarten through third grade, there is only one approved curriculum,” she said. “And that’s exactly where parents are getting these images … from the curriculum already approved. And so there’s no choice.”

Comprehensive sex ed bill passes House, just needs Senate to ratify amendments

Since Superintendent Chris Reykdal and his office approve state curriculum, Espinoza decided that a change in leadership was needed.

“We need someone in this role who has political courage, not someone who uses their office to advance a political agenda,” she said.

She believes Reykdal’s mistake was making sex ed a party-line issue instead of a neutral topic; instead of the normal, age-appropriate topics taught in typical Washington classrooms, she said he has allowed a new curriculum that gets explicit at early ages.

“We wouldn’t be so concerned about it if we weren’t aware of the curriculum that he thinks is okay,” she said. “What was normally being taught in school was not the issue. They wanted to really step this up, and they did it in the dead of night, party line.”

As superintendent, Espinoza would not necessarily want to get rid of the sex ed curriculum, but rather add options.

“I certainly would look at it and have my own task force of parents, with both dissenting people and those who think this is okay– get in a room and take a look at this stuff,” she said. “I’m not the type of leader who would come in and say, ‘This is my vision and I’m changing it.’ I would get people together from both sides, as I do in all my work in politics, to make sure we get something that appeals to everyone.”

While Reykdal has said that the curriculum needs to be approved by each individual school district, Espinoza said it actually takes away that piece of local oversight.

“Parents and school districts don’t have the options that they normally have … it takes away the local control choice and mandates these specific approved curriculum statewide,” Espinoza said. “We don’t do this with any other subject, but for whatever reason, [Reykdal] thought it was important to do with this subject.”

Espinoza was especially hurt when Superintendent Reykdal made a metaphor between parents opposing sex ed and people who still believe the Earth is flat (see 58:00 in this video).

“I understand that they want to make sure we’re teaching about consent — we appreciate all of that, but [not] the disturbing elements of this,” she said. “We’re being referred to as flat-Earthers and Holocaust deniers because we’re concerned about the content that is being approved.”

Chief among Espinoza’s other concerns is how far Washington public schools lag behind the rest of the world.

“Our public schools are not measuring up, unless you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with an exceptional school — which actually reaffirms my point. Exceptional schools are the exception, not the norm; our schools have been failing for a long time,” she said. “But this issue, another piece to take away parental involvement … is really the last straw. We’ve got to do something about that.”

To learn more, visit Espinoza’s official campaign website.

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
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

Dori Monson stage show...
MyNorthwest Staff

Watch: Dori Monson’s ‘What are the Odds?’ stage show

In 2019, Dori Monson hosted a stage show - 'What are the Odds?' - which introduced you to the people who helped shape his improbable career.
1 month ago
Dori Monson welcomes the Moose back to KIRO. Follow @
MyNorthwest Staff

A collection of the all-time best Dori Monson stories

With the passing of Dori Monson, a collection of some of his top stories to remember all the hard work Dori brought to Seattle.
1 month ago
Alaska, fishing...
KIRO Newsradio staff

Listen: Friends, colleagues offer tribute to KIRO Newsradio’s Dori Monson

All day Monday, KIRO Newsradio's John Curley talked to friends, news makers, and more in tribute to Dori Monson.
1 month ago
Dori Monson Shorecrest...
Dori Monson Show

How to support charities reflecting Dori Monson’s values, passions

In tribute to Dori Monson, learn more about how you can support these three charities which best reflect his values, passions, and advocacy.
1 month ago
Dori Monson Nicole Thompson...
MyNorthwest Staff

Broadcasters, politicians, coworkers and friends remember Dori Monson

Dori Monson, a longtime KIRO Newsradio host, passed away Saturday. He is remembered by public figures, broadcasters, coworkers, and listeners.
1 month ago
Dori Monson...
MyNorthwest Staff

Longtime KIRO Newsradio host Dori Monson dies at age 61

We are deeply saddened to announce Dori Monson's sudden passing on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at a Seattle hospital.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Sex ed bill inspired activist Maia Espinoza to run for superintendent