In 2019, a coalition of parents, educators, medical professionals and advocates worked to pass a law in Washington state focused on keeping young people safe and healthy. The 2020 Legislature passed the proposal, ESSB 5395, after engagement with communities, parents and educators. Both the School Nurse Organization of Washington and WSNA supported this legislation.
ESSB 5395 requires all public schools to teach age-appropriate, inclusive and comprehensive sexual health education to K‑12 students. #
Under this law, schools are provided with a list of approved comprehensive sexual health education curriculums from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) that they can choose from. Curriculums vary based on grade. Schools can submit alternative curriculum for approval by OSPI. K‑3 students will continue existing social-emotional learning, as school districts are not mandated to offer sexual health education to children in that age group.
The curriculum must be medically and scientifically accurate and age appropriate. #
Approved curriculum includes information about consent, media literacy and the development of meaningful relationships, in addition to health care and prevention resources. All curriculum, instruction and materials must use language and strategies that recognize all members of protected classes. Parents must be notified of the programs by their child’s school.
Access to good sexual education is an equity issue. #
Research shows that Black and Latinx youth are more likely to hold false beliefs about sex and contraception. Integrating comprehensive sex education in public schools statewide increases equity and access to accurate information. LGBTQ youth deserve to see themselves reflected positively in sexual health education and be accepted by their teachers and peers.
Vote to approve Referendum 90 #
Referendum Measures are laws recently passed by the Legislature that are placed on the ballot because of petitions signed by voters. In the case of Referendum 90 (R‑90), nearly 130,000 registered voters petitioned that ESSB 5395 does not reflect the interests of the majority of voters in Washington state and the new sex education law should be repealed.
We must prevent ESSB 5395 from being repealed by approving R‑90.
Repealing our new sexual health education law will leave too many young people with inaccurate or incomplete information about how to keep themselves safe and healthy and make good decisions. Repealing this law would be a disadvantage for youth in communities across the state — especially BIPOC, LGBTQ and/or students with disabilities, who are at particular risk.
“The School Nurse Organization of Washington supports R‑90 because it is important for our students to have access to accurate health information,” said Liz Pray, School Nurse Organization of Washington (SNOW) president. “It is equally important that our students learn skills to establish healthy relationships, including understanding boundaries and consent. These are foundational skills that will keep students safe.”
Why this new law is important #
- Young people who have quality sex education are less likely to partake in risky sex behavior, experience unintended pregnancy or contract a sexually transmitted infection.
- Young people need access to information and resources about healthy relationships to help them understand how to respect personal boundaries, ask for consent, and learn how to say and receive a “no.”
- LGBTQ youth deserve to see themselves reflected positively in sexual health education and be accepted by their teachers and peers.
- Providing sex education in public schools promotes racial equity; schools with predominantly Black and Brown student populations are more likely to use abstinence-only education, and students of color are more burdened with societal stigmas and stereotypes about their sexual choices.
- Young children who are being abused need communication and language tools to be able to share their experiences with a trusted adult.