Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer
Legislation (SB 5395) is currently being considered that would make it possible that comprehensive sex education could be mandatory in all Washington state public schools. As per The News Tribune, “SB 5395 would require all public schools in Washington to provide inclusive, mandatory sexual education by Sept. 1, 2020.” Previously, the state law on sex education is that schools have the option to teach it. If the school does decide to offer it, the curriculum must be scientifically and medically accurate, relevant to the student’s age, non-discriminatory, and must provide information on abstinence, sexually-transmitted diseases, and preventing pregnancy. This bill would put everything out there for adolescents, give them the information and facts, while also pushing for proactiveness and preparation.
This bill is sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson of Auburn, who has seen the effects of the previous ways of teaching sex education, and wants to change the taboo behind it. According to The Chronicle, Wilson stated, “Comprehensive sexuality health education is essential to young people’s good health, their relationships and also meeting their life goals. Young people deserve to have information, they deserve to have resources, and they deserve to have the skills they need to protect their health and also build their future without shame and without judgment.” Before this bill was sponsored by Sen. Wilson, it was requested by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to change the way that sex education is taught, and allow more young people access to much needed information, as many schools have opted out of offering in the past. Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, mentioned the high percentages of sexual assault in schools in the public hearing for the bill on Feb. 13. He told The Seattle Times, “the issue of sexual assault in schools is one of the most profound epidemics of our time. One-third of female high-school graduates in Washington are sexually assaulted and one-sixth of males.”
You may be wondering how big of a change this will entail and what exactly will be covered in a comprehensive sex education class. The legislative analysis of this bill states that SB 5395 “would mandate the public-school districts to use a curriculum that encourages healthy relationships, teaches about behaviors that contribute to sexual violence and emphasizes the importance of affirmative consent—as opposed to the extensively used ‘no means no’ education.”
SB 5395 passed the State Senate on Friday, March 1, by a vote of 28-21. It is now headed to the State House of Representatives.