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Comprehensive sex education bill passes, goes to governor for signature

UPDATED: Sat., March 7, 2020

The Legislative Building stands out against a blue sky Feb. 24, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. as pedestrians walk outside near the lunch hour. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
The Legislative Building stands out against a blue sky Feb. 24, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. as pedestrians walk outside near the lunch hour. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

OLYMPIA – A requirement that public schools provide courses in age-appropriate comprehensive sexual health education at various points between kindergarten through high school received final approval Saturday from the Senate.

In a partisan 27-21 vote, the Senate sent to Gov. Jay Inslee a bill that supporters said will protect students from being victimized and critics said leaves parents out of the decisions for the content of the curriculum.

“There’s a lot of misinformation being passed around,” Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, the bill’s sponsor.

The latest version of the bill, approved in the House earlier this week, calls for age-appropriate courses to teach about affirmative consent and the consequences of sexual activity, she said.

It requires one course on accurate sexual health information for students at some point between kindergarten and Grade 3, one course in Grade 4 or 5, two courses between Grades 6 and 8, and two courses between Grades 9 and 12. It requires parents be notified when the courses are to be taught and gives parents the right to view and have their children opt out the courses.

“It’s about teaching kids to recognize and avoid things … instead of being victimized,” she said.

Changes approved by the House provide for more local control, supporters said.

Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said parents have been left out of the process to develop the bill, and the courses being considered by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“What’s affirmative consent when you’re a kindergartner?” Short asked. “We want students to be safe, but this is misguided policy at its very core.”

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he’s received more “disgruntled” emails on this bill than any other. Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the requirements could result in parents pulling their children out of public school and sending them to private schools or home-schooling them.

“This is one of the worst bills ever to come before the Legislature,” Padden said.

Saturday’s vote marked the third time the Senate has passed the bill on nearly identical vote counts.

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