Approve Referendum 90: Protecting the health and safety of our students

This story was published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine.

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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does not reflect the inter­ests of the majority of voters in Washington state and the new sex educa­tion law should be repealed.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.

One strong voice: WSNA members are stepping up in uncertain times

WSNA-PAC Endorsements

WSNA-PAC endorses in many statewide races but does not endorse for Federal Elections such as Congres­sional or Presi­den­tial races.

Decoding WSNA-PAC’s endorsement process

WSNA-PAC supports candidates and incumbents who are strong on nursing and patient safety issues, regardless of political party affiliation. As nurses, we value transparency and integrity — and our endorsement process reflects that.

Vote for nurses

Who better to make state-level health policy decisions than a nurse? Each year, the Washington State Legislature considers hundreds of health care bills — many of which directly impact patient safety, nursing scope of practice and licensure, and working conditions in our state’s health care facilities.