Caution: This article discusses changes to school health classes; there is nothing graphic in this text, however, the content may not be appropriate for young readers.
The Washington State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill (SB) 5395 which will go into effect in the year 2022. The Bill would regulate how sexual education is taught in schools, starting with requiring health teachers to teach abstinence and other “safe sex practices”. It would also require that schools teach kids how to be in healthy relationships, as well as how to recognize behaviors of sexual violence and abuse. The bill also states that the school curriculum must teach students the importance of affirmative consent prior to sexual activity, and “Comprehensive sexual health education must be phased in for students in grades kindergarten through 5th. Full statewide implementation for all public schools and all grade levels must be achieved by September 1, 2021.” Originally in Washington State, teachers could teach health as they pleased, so long as it was approved by the district. This means students could be taught abstinence instead of other safe sex practices. This bill would not only change that, but it would make it so schools had to teach some sort of sex education to students under the age of 5.
For SB 5395
Those in support of SB 5395 said, “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. It is essential to students’ health, relationships, and meeting their life goals. This type of education is not just about sex, and it does not teach students how to have sex. It can reduce unintended pregnancy and STDs, teach students about affirmative consent, and can help students avoid abusive relationships. Students in all school districts deserve to have information and learn and practice the skills they need to protect their health. This education must be provided without shame and judgment and must be inclusive of all identities. Students should be able to see themselves in the curriculum. A little more than half of school districts are already providing this type of education. Small groups of people who oppose this type of education may prevent a school board from adopting it even though the majority of people want it. Parents can still opt their children out of this type of education. This bill aligns with one of the recommendations of the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities.” As stated in the Senate Bill Report.
Against SB 5395
The argument against SB 5395 in the Senate Bill Report was, “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. 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.”
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