Family health physician: WA sex-ed curriculum ‘will help keep all students safe’
In March 2020, Gov. Inslee signed a bill mandating comprehensive sex-ed for K-12 students in Washington. After an outcry from groups opposing the bill, the measure is now on the ballot as Referendum 90. Family health physician Dr. Ying Zhang stopped by KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show with some context on what the curriculum entails, and why she supports the referendum.
The curriculum covers a variety of topics in the realm of sexual health. 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.
In elementary school, sex-ed topics will be limited to protecting the body in cases of physical assault or if somebody is inappropriately touching. No student will be required to participate in any of these classes, with the bill providing families the ability to opt their children out.
Those who oppose the curriculum claim that the lessons it teachers are sexually inappropriate for children, and would do more harm than good. Dr. Zhang takes issue with those claims.
“Contrary to some of the misleading statements by some, this measure is going to ensure age appropriate educational curriculum, which will help keep all students safe,” she described. “In addition, the information that will be provided in schools is really just going to promote healthy relationships.”
Dr. Zhang points out the overarching goal of the lessons is to “focus on social and emotional learning,” and help children understand personal boundaries, consent, and interpersonal skills. A mother herself, this resonates with her both a professional and personal level.
“As a family doctor and also as a parent of a five-year-old and a one-year-old, my son started virtual kindergarten this year, and for me, it’s really important for him to learn some of these skills in social and emotional learning,” she said.
“This sex education really will enable students to make good decisions about protecting their health and their futures,” she added.
Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.