New Washington State Sex Education Law

Washington state’s new sexual education bill is a major step in the right direction, but there are several problems it fails to address completely.

The bill requires that every public school provide “comprehensive sexual health education.” For kids in kindergarten to third grade, this means “social-emotional learning.”

 Dora Hamilton, a student at Capital who helped advocate for the bill, said that “for kids in elementary school the sex ed is not going to be about sex. Information on consent and healthy relationships (will be) framed in a way for elementary schoolers to understand.” 

Schools are required to give students education once in kindergarten through grade three, once in grades four through five, twice in grades six through eight, and twice to students in grades nine through twelve. This helps ensure that middle schools that previously gave kids no sexual education will now be doing so. However, the requirements the bill gives are vague, especially for middle schoolers, where the only requirement given is “instruction in human development that is age-appropriate and inclusive of all students.” This is an understandable and wise requirement, but age-appropriate is a phrase that is subject to interpretation and additional requirements should have been given. 

The subjects required to be taught include “affirmative consent,” “sexual health education,” and “contraception”. The bill requires that “abstinence not be taught to the exclusion of other materials and instruction on contraceptives and disease prevention.” This helps with a problem some of the students at Capital had with sexual education before this bill was passed. “It should be about pleasure and not just some fear tactic to keep people celibate,” one student said. However, this does not entirely solve the issue, since other methods of disease prevention can still be taught using a fear tactic.

The bill has been widely controversial amongst parents throughout the state, having to do with the content geared towards younger students.  Parents fear the impact that sex-ed lessons could have, believing it could promote sexual activity at a younger age. As Whitney Holtz, an organizer of Informed Parents of Washington says, “their definition of what is age-appropriate across all ages is certainly not what we agree with.”

Representative Monica Stonier, the sponsor of the bill, replied to criticism of the curriculum, saying “A lot of what they are talking about is factually untrue. We are teaching them the skills they need to have healthy relationships in an age-appropriate way”.

Votes on this bill were ultimately split across party lines with no republicans in the house voting for the bill. The divide speaks to the array of views surrounding sexual education and sex, influenced by a variety of factors including gender, religion, and political party.  This stark divide between opinions regarding sex is reflected in students at Capital today. With some students saying it should be saved till marriage and other’s students saying if the couple is ready they should go ahead with it.

Ultimately, this bill which will go into effect in the 2022 school year and will educate students on issues such as healthy relationships, affirmative consent, contraceptives and disease prevention, and LGBTQ issues, tailored to their age. Helping to provide reliable and accurate information for the youth of tomorrow.