Newly mandated sexual health education in kindergarten through senior high public schools in Washington state includes guidance contrary to scripture, according to several groups opposing the change.
Referendum 90 passed with 57% of the vote Nov. 3, despite opposition from a coalition including pro-life and pro-family advocates, leaders of five public school districts and Republican legislators. Those opposed decried what they called the “early sexualization” of children. The coalition promotes local curriculum and parental involvement.
Randy Adams, executive director-treasurer of the Northwest Baptist Convention, said the new law “reflects an increased effort of the state to shape the thinking of children, usurping the proper role of the parents.”
“Liberal progressives see the family, and traditional family values, as a problem that must be overcome by using public school education to teach liberal values to children,” Adams said. “Parents are given the opportunity to opt their kids out, but that puts the kids in an awkward situation with their friends.”
The referendum is based on a law the Washington legislature passed with only Democratic Party support in March. Groups against the measure forced a ballot measure giving the public a chance to strike down the law, but voters instead approved the law. It would eventually require “comprehensive sexual health education” beginning in kindergarten.
Opponents call the referendum “graphic and extreme,” citing the teaching of more than two genders, the acceptance of homosexual behavior and the normalization of sex outside of marriage.
“One of the main objectives of Comprehensive Sexual Education is inclusion of kids who identify as LGBTQ,” opponent Jennifer Heine-Withee said. “That is accomplished by instructing kids in gender identity, sexual activity that is typically associated with people who are LGBTQ, and anti-bullying lessons specific to the LGBTQ community.” Heine-Withee is director of Southwest Washington Parents’ Rights in Education (PRIE).
“Unfortunately this instruction fails to include the consequences inherent in the accompanying lifestyle such as the permanent repercussions from hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, or the fact that 80-95% of teens will come to accept their biological sex by adulthood,” she said. “And by including anti-bullying instruction in sex ed, other typically marginalized children are left out of the mix.”
The instruction also focuses on different types of underage sexual activity, Heine-Withee said, and treats abstinence “as more of an afterthought.”
In a voter guide, opponents of the measure called it a “blatant power grab by Olympia bureaucrats to take away parental control and impose a comprehensive sexual education curriculum starting in kindergarten. Parents and local schools are already doing an excellent job at this now. HHS.gov (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) reports that for the last 25 years of available data, Washington’s teenage birth rate dropped 69%. Erin’s Law, which passed in 2018, addresses sexual abuse, prevention and online safety.”
The sex education mandate requires all public schools to provide “comprehensive sexual health education” in accordance with a state-approved curriculum by the 2022-23 school year, beginning in grades four through 12 in 2021-22, and continuing in kindergarten – third grade the following year.
The law limits instruction for kindergarteners through third graders to “social-emotional learning” that is consistent with learning standards and benchmarks adopted by the office of the superintendent of public instruction under the Revised Code of Washington 28A.300.478.
Any parents’ requests to opt their children out of the education must be approved, but proponents of the measure say other students will have the opportunity to bully classmates who don’t attend the instruction, and to share secondhand information.
Among the law’s guidance:
- The classes must include information on abstinence and other methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Instruction must include information on affirmative consent, defined as “a conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity as a requirement before sexual activity.”
- Individual public schools are allowed to choose their own curriculum for the classes, as long as it conforms to stated guidelines.
- School districts must notify parents and guardians of the instruction at the beginning of each school year.
Groups opposing the mandate include: Healing the Culture, Human Life of Washington, the Washington Republican Party, Informed Parents of Washington, the Family Policy Institute of Washington, My Family My Choice, PRIE and Students for Life, as well as the Republican caucuses of both the Washington House and Senate.
In addition to Democratic leaders, advancing the measure are a coalition of 20 organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Planned Parenthood, the Gender Justice League, the Washington Education Association, and the Sexual Violence Law Center.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)