NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Comprehensive sexual health education has finally cleared the Washington State House!

Leg­is­la­tion that would require all pub­lic schools to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion (known as CSHE for short) to each stu­dent by the 2022–23 school year cleared the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last night sev­er­al hours before day­break after a gru­el­ing, pro­tract­ed floor debate that was unnec­es­sar­i­ly drawn out by the cham­ber’s Repub­li­can minority.

House pas­sage of Engrossed Sen­ate Sub­sti­tute Bill 5395 is a huge win for Wash­ing­ton’s youth and a major accom­plish­ment for the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, which had to over­come a tor­rent of Repub­li­can amend­ments just to get the bill con­sid­ered and vot­ed upon. Last year, ESSB 5395 did not make it out of com­mit­tee in the House. This year, it went all the way through the chamber.

The bill, request­ed by Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Chris Reyk­dal and over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ed by Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, has passed the Sen­ate twice.

ESSB 5395 is also one of NPI’s major 2020 leg­isla­tive priorities.

Now the bill going back to where it start­ed for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, because the House made sev­er­al sig­nif­i­cant changes to it. Assum­ing the Sen­ate con­curs with those changes, the bill will land on Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk by ses­sion’s end with no fur­ther action need­ed by the House of Representatives.

The roll call in the House was as follows:

ESSB 5395
Sex­u­al health education
House vote on Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the House

Yeas: 56; Nays: 40; Excused: 2

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Apple­ton, Bergquist, Blake, Callan, Chap­man, Chopp, Cody, Davis, Doglio, Dolan, Duerr, Enten­man, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Frame, Good­man, Gregerson, Hansen, Hud­gins, John­son, J., Kil­duff, Kir­by, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Lovick, Macri, Mor­gan, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Pel­lic­ciot­ti, Peter­son, Pet­ti­grew, Pol­let, Ramel, Ramos, Ric­cel­li, Robin­son, Ryu, San­tos, Sells, Senn, Shew­make, Slat­ter, Springer, Stonier, Sul­li­van, Tar­leton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Walen, Wylie, Jinkins

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Barkis, Boehnke, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Cor­ry, Dent, Dufault, Dye, Eslick, Gildon, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hoff, Irwin, Jenkin, Klip­pert, Kraft, Kretz, MacEwen, May­cum­ber, McCaslin, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Rude, Schmick, Shea, Smith, Steele, Stokes­bary, Suther­land, Van Wer­ven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Ybar­ra, Young

Excused: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive DeBolt, Mead

Each cau­cus had one mem­ber excused. The remain­ing Democ­rats vot­ed to pass the bill, while the remain­ing Repub­li­cans vot­ed against passage.

“First and fore­most, this bill is about safe­ty,” explained prime spon­sor Claire Wil­son in a news release. It’s about giv­ing stu­dents the knowl­edge they need to rec­og­nize and resist inap­pro­pri­ate behav­iors — from small chil­dren tar­get­ed by pedophiles, to old­er stu­dents pres­sured to have sex by their peers.”

“Sec­ond, this bill is about health. Young peo­ple ages fif­teen to twen­ty-four rep­re­sent one-fourth of the sex­u­al­ly active pop­u­la­tion but acquire half of all new STIs. Stud­ies con­sis­tent­ly show that the most effec­tive pro­grams include com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health or HIV edu­ca­tion — or both — and the com­pre­hen­sive approach is proven to reduce unin­tend­ed preg­nan­cy and STIs.”

“Par­ents and com­mu­ni­ties are crit­i­cal part­ners in ensur­ing that our stu­dents are healthy and suc­cess­ful, which is why it is so impor­tant that this bill strength­ens parental rights,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mon­i­ca Stonier (D‑Vancouver), who spon­sored com­pan­ion leg­is­la­tion in the House. “Teach­ing stu­dents how to be good friends, how to say no to unwant­ed touch­es, and how to devel­op healthy, respect­ful rela­tion­ships are all build­ing blocks of pub­lic education.”

Repub­li­cans were livid.

“Sen­ate Bill 5395 was passed in the dead of night (2:00 AM) when most reporters had gone home,” groused Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joe Schmick in an email, con­ve­nient­ly neglect­ing to men­tion that the debate had begun more than six hours ear­li­er and only dragged on until 2 AM because he and his cau­cus had insist­ed in stretch­ing out the pro­ceed­ings for as long as pos­si­ble in an attempt to kill the bill.

Schmick also com­plained that most of the two hun­dred amend­ments filed by Repub­li­cans against the bill were not con­sid­ered, with­out both­er­ing to admit that most of the amend­ments were offered not in the hopes of improv­ing the bill, but with the objec­tive of killing off the bill. (More than a dozen Repub­li­can amend­ments were con­sid­ered and all of them were rejected.)

“Despite mas­sive oppo­si­tion from school offi­cials, teach­ers and par­ents around the state, the major­i­ty par­ty decid­ed to turn a deaf ear and pass Sen­ate Bill 5395,” grum­bled Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bob McCaslin.

“Man­dat­ing sex edu­ca­tion for our kinder­gart­ners and ele­men­tary school stu­dents is the wrong direc­tion for our state,” McCaslin added.

Nev­er mind that the bill sen­si­bly requires only age-appro­pri­ate cur­ricu­lum… Repub­li­cans keep ped­dling this myth that the bill will result in kids being taught inap­pro­pri­ate sub­ject mat­ter. They are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Repub­li­cans are also wrong when they claim their posi­tion is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sen­ti­ments of the peo­ple of this state. Our research clear­ly shows that vot­ers over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port this leg­is­la­tion. 67% of respon­dents polled last autumn backed ESSB 5395, with 49% express­ing strong sup­port. Just 22% were opposed and 11% were not sure. Those are very strong numbers.

Hav­ing failed in their efforts to kill the bill, Repub­li­cans are now mak­ing wild­ly hyper­bol­ic state­ments about how it will deprive chil­dren of their inno­cence and rip apart com­mu­ni­ties. But the truth is the bill will empow­er Wash­ing­ton’s youth. It does not take away par­ents’ rights or threat­en any­one’s inno­cence. Knowl­edge is pow­er and there is no excuse or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion — none — for fail­ing to equip young Wash­ing­to­ni­ans with the infor­ma­tion they need to make healthy decisions.

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  1. […] House Repub­li­cans tried to destroy the leg­is­la­tion by fil­ing hun­dreds of amend­ments against it; their gam­bit failed when House Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins sched­uled a marathon floor ses­sion that ran until 2 AM to ensure the bill would get a vote. […]

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