Washington Voters Overwhelmingly Support Comprehensive Sex Ed—House Democratic Leadership Failed to Act
OLYMPIA, WA -- Yesterday, the House Education Committee killed the Senate’s age-appropriate, comprehensive, inclusive and medically-accurate sex education bill by failing to act before the bill cut-off deadline of April 3rd. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal requested changes to sex education and the bill, SB 5395, passed the Senate (28-21) with amendments requested by school districts and Republicans.
The House Education Committee held a hearing on the bill on March 12, 2019, but Chairwoman Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-South Seattle) stated publicly that she would not move the sex education bill to a final vote in her committee because of "the politics and the process" of the bill.
“Despite the bipartisan, immense support for this legislation from across the state, our elected leaders chose not to fight for the rights of young people in our state,” said Courtney Normand, Washington state director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “It’s shameful our State Representatives and House leadership chose to put politics first, and then misjudged what a political win this would be. Comprehensive sex ed is not controversial. Senators Claire Wilson and Lisa Wellman know access to sex ed is supported by Washington state voters across the political spectrum. In contrast, our Democratic House decided it’s okay to deny our youth access the medically-accurate information they need to stay healthy.”
Planned Parenthood Votes' recent polling in Washington State showed widespread, nonpartisan support for sex ed.
- Democrats overwhelmingly favor requiring education that covers healthy relationships and communication skills (88% favor), requiring sex education that covers delaying sex and information about birth control and STIs (87% favor), and expanding existing age-appropriate sex education curriculum in schools (90% favor).
- Republican and Independent voters in Washington also support sex education, especially if it covers delaying sex, information about birth control and STIs, and expanding existing age-appropriate sex education curriculum in schools.
In 2016, there were a total of 883 cases of gonorrhea, and 7,040 cases of chlamydia, among young people ages 15–19 reported in Washington. That same year, less than half (43%) of high schools in Washington taught comprehensive sex ed, according to a new report from the Sexuality and Education Information Council. Just 14.3% Washington secondary schools taught students comprehensive, critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
“Sexual health is crucial. It doesn’t become less critical if you are experienced or not, what your beliefs are, or how you identify. Your body is yours, and you deserve to know what is going on with it,” said Claire Bramhill, a senior at Northwest High School and a member of Planned Parenthood’s Teen Council. “Many Washington parents assume their schools are already providing it, but sadly a student’s access to critical information will still be dependent upon which zip code they live in.”
Senator Claire Wilson’s bill, SB 5395, would have:
- made sex education that is age-appropriate, comprehensive and medically accurate mandatory in all public schools;
- required that curriculum be inclusive for all students, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation;
- required components on affirmative consent and healthy relationships as part of the comprehensive sex education curriculum; and
- required school districts to report on the sex education they are providing so that our state can continue to improve the quality of programming in the future.
Washington State law already requires that sex ed programs be age-appropriate when offered. And study after study demonstrates that these programs help teens delay sex, improve birth control use, and/or prevent pregnancy. School districts already have a wide range of curricula and programs to choose from, ensuring they can select culturally appropriate and age-appropriate materials for their students. Parents can also choose to opt out of sex ed.