OLYMPIA - After thorough debate, a proposal for universal, all-grade sex education passed in the State Senate on Wednesday.
The proposal, which passed on a 28-21 vote, would require schools in the state to teach sex education classes. Information about affirmative consent and how to recognize abusive relationships would be required in the curriculum.
Senate Bill 5395 would require public schools to provide evidence-based, age-appropriate sexual health education curriculum that follows the Washington State health and physical education K-12 learning standards that are set by the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Supporters of the bill say argue many students have been sexually assaulted or coerced into sexual activity, which is linked to suicide.
"This is a public health crisis. Young people will pursue sexual experiences regardless of what anyone tells them. In order for young people to make good choices, they need help understanding the ramifications of their choices. Comprehensive sexual health education provides this information," one supporter stated.
Opponents state the decision to offer this type of education should lie with school boards and ultimately parents.
"This bill mandates values and may lead to a number of students leaving public schools. Comprehensive sexual health education can include graphic material and can teach students how to have sex," individuals opposed to the legislation said.
"The curriculum can contain transgender promotion and confusion for young children. Parents should educate their children on these types of topics at home. The number of pregnancies and abortions are down, so the status quo is working."
Multiple women associated with Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands spoke at a hearing on Feb. 13 in support of SB 5395.
Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the youngest students ciricculum would include content like the difference between a "good touch" and a "bad touch," and respect.
Parents would have the option to opt out. The bill states, "Parents or legal guardians who wish to have their child excused from any planned instruction in comprehensive sexual health education may do so upon filing a written request with the school district board of directors, or the principal of the school their child attends."
Minority Republicans opposed to the bill have put forth more than a dozen proposed amendments, including proposals that would block the sex education classes from being taught to the youngest students in kindergarten.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the sex ed vote was "an historic day in a bad way," adding "What they (constituents) don't like is people jamming Seattle values down their throats and that is what they are doing here," according to the Seattle PI.
He also said, "I wish I could save some of my other no votes for other bills, and put them all together, and have 20 here. That's how strongly I feel about this."
The bill is now in the House, which has a democratic majority.