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Saturday, July 11, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: We don’t need this type of sex education

Parents and children, including 11-year-old Martin Velikanov, fourth from left, make known their objections to the state-mandated sex education curriculum recently passed by the Washington legislature. The group protested in front of the Spokane Public Schools offices in downtown Spokane on March 11. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Parents and children, including 11-year-old Martin Velikanov, fourth from left, make known their objections to the state-mandated sex education curriculum recently passed by the Washington legislature. The group protested in front of the Spokane Public Schools offices in downtown Spokane on March 11. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I did something Saturday that was completely outside my comfort zone: I stood next to a busy road and waved wildly to passing cars while holding a giant sign. As a card-carrying introvert, things like this usually make me want to die, but this cause was important enough to me that I was willing to do it.

I was working with a group who is trying to get enough petition signatures to repeal the controversial and comprehensive sex education bill (SB 5395) that Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed into law. The group wants to give voters the ability to vote on it in November.

I find it very telling that, even amid a pandemic, groups across Washington who oppose SB 5395 have still managed to – from a safe social distance, mind you – collect more than 88,000 signatures.

But to get it onto the ballot in November, about 42,000 signatures still need to be gathered before June 10. In case you’re one of the many people like me who is unaware of what day it currently is, that’s just 15 days away.

As I stood at my post along the street, waving so incessantly I sometimes had to stop and teach my arm how to function again, I was heartened by how many people honked, waved or gave a thumbs-up of support. But I also was flipped off once, and someone screamed an obscenity from his open car window at me. I couldn’t help but wonder what those people thought of me.

“I bet they think I’m an ultraconservative mom who refuses to acknowledge the existence of sex, loves Donald Trump and balks at the idea of wearing a face mask in public,” I thought. They would be wrong on all counts.

I’m just a woman who holds my role as a mother sacred and thinks children are too precious to be force-fed overly sexual material too soon and in an inappropriate setting. I am not anti-sex education. I think some of it is appropriate. And on paper, SB 5395 doesn’t sound too bad. But the bill is not the same thing as the curriculum.

When you go into the actual pages of some of the curriculum models that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has approved, you might be surprised by how explicit, polarizing and inappropriate much of it is.

If there’s one thing my recent home-school experience has taught me, it’s that there are things I am completely unqualified to teach my kids. Middle school orchestra? No, thank you. Advanced algebra? Please, no. The rise of fascism during World War I? Heaven help us all.

But gender identity, sexuality and morality? Those are things I am deeply invested in teaching my children, according to my moral understanding and beliefs. I say all this fully acknowledging that I don’t know the ins and outs of how other families operate. I know from the expletive and middle finger Sunday that at least two people are in favor of comprehensive sex education.

But I do know how my family operates and what I do and don’t want for my children. And that’s exactly the point. Whether you’re for it or not, this bill was signed into law without considering the opinions and desires of the people it will directly affect. We deserve the right to vote on it.

Please, even if you’re not sure where you stand on this issue but you believe Washington voters should be the ones having a say, head over to a drive-by petition-signing station this week. Don’t delay, because many of them will be shutting down after Saturday to make sure the petitions make it to Olympia in time to be counted.

There are several petition-signing locations in the area. Check the “A Voice for Washington Children” Facebook page for locations, or head to the Argonne Library or Mica Peak High School on Tuesday through Friday from 1-7 p.m. this week this week. Our kids are precious, and time is running out.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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