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Comprehensive sex-ed in schools approved by Senate


Last updated 2/12/2020 at 7:43am

A proposed law to require school districts to implement a comprehensive sexual education curriculum emphasizing healthy relationships and consent was passed after a 28-21 vote by the state Senate yesterday.

If signed into law, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5395 would require every public school to offer evidence-informed, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education as an integral part of the curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade by Sept 1, 2021.

The bill was first introduced in 2019 and was hotly debated. It stalled before the end of the legislative session and Senate Democrats re-introduced and passed it on Wednesday, Jan. 22. It heads now to the House.

No Republican senators voted in favor of the legislation, and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, voted against the measure.

Much of the language of the bill emphasizes a focus on teaching affirmative consent and behaviors to reduce the risk of sexual assault and coercion. The bill also specifies the curriculum must be inclusive to all protected classes. It also stipulates that the curricula will include both abstinence and other methods of avoiding unplanned pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease.

“It is about safety, first and foremost,” said Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way, a prime sponsor of the bill.

Wilson said this kind of education will help young people make better decisions to avoid the medical and economic consequences of sexually-transmitted disease, unplanned pregnancy and sexual violence.

Republican Senators argued this bill is an overstep of state power and would erode the local control of school boards to implement a curriculum that best fits their respective communities.

Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said this legislation does not respect the will of the parents who may want to teach their children about sexual health on their own.

Many Republicans, such as Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, claimed that the majority of parents in their districts were not in favor of this bill.

“I think it is imposing values from the largest city to our whole state,” Padden asserted.

The legislation allows parents to excuse their children from the classes by submitting a written request.

The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.


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