Comprehensive sex education bill heads to Gov. Inslee's desk

A bill that would require all school districts to teach comprehensive sexual education passed the state House last week.

The bill will head to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk for final approval. It requires sexual health education to be provided to students in grades sixth through 12th by the 2021-22 school year, and then to all K-12 students the following year. Currently, public schools are not required to provide sexual health education to students.

The bill says the instruction will be age-appropriate and that the materials used must be "medically and scientifically accurate." Grades K-3 must teach "social-emotional learning," consistent with benchmarks adopted by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Higher grades would learn about physiological, psychological and sociological developments.

The bill was highly controversial, with Republican lawmakers opposed to the bill. During the debate, one lawmaker, Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, expressed opposition to fourth graders learning about vaginal, oral and anal sex. Republicans attempted to kill the bill by adding more than 200 amendments to it — 29 of those coming from Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley.

The bill also will require schools that provide sexual health education teach affirmative consent, defining it as a conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.

Schools will be able to choose their own curriculum from a list provided by the state OSPI or separately approved by OSPI. If parents don't want their kids to receive the sexual education instruction, they can opt out, according to a provision in the bill. ♦

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione, born and raised in Spokane, is an Inlander staff writer covering education and social services in the Inland Northwest.