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.

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Governor Jay Inslee signs comprehensive sexual health education legislation into law

Anoth­er one of NPI’s prin­ci­pal 2020 leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties has become a law.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee today signed ESSB 5395, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son and cham­pi­oned by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mon­i­ca Stonier in the House.

The bill sen­si­bly requires that all Wash­ing­ton pub­lic schools teach age-appro­pri­ate com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion (CSHE), although it allows par­ents to opt their chil­dren out of receiv­ing CSHE instruc­tion and it keeps school dis­tricts in charge of mak­ing deci­sions about the cur­ricu­lum that is to be taught.

The bill passed the Leg­is­la­ture on a set of par­ty line votes, with Democ­rats in strong sup­port and Repub­li­cans fer­vent­ly opposed.

It was arguably the most divi­sive bill con­sid­ered dur­ing the session.

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.

Repub­li­cans have relied heav­i­ly on mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­hon­est talk­ing points to make a case against the bill. They have false­ly argued, for exam­ple, that the bill requires kinder­gart­ners to be taught about sex­u­al inter­course (it does­n’t). They have argued that the bill pro­motes pornog­ra­phy (it does­n’t). They have even hyper­bol­i­cal­ly claimed that CSHE will rob chil­dren of their inno­cence (it won’t).

Fol­low­ing pas­sage of the bill, Repub­li­cans (the state par­ty, the House Repub­li­cans, and the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans) all called for a guber­na­to­r­i­al veto, using the social media hash­tag #Lis­ten­ToTheP­eo­ple.

But lis­ten­ing to the peo­ple is exact­ly what Inslee did by sign­ing the bill.

Late last year, NPI asked a large sam­pling of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers (nine hun­dred!) about their views on the leg­is­la­tion. We found 67% in sup­port of the bill — more than two thirds — with about half, 49%, in strong sup­port of com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion. The oppo­si­tion clocked in at just 22%.

That’s com­pelling evi­dence that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sup­port ESSB 5395.

The only evi­dence Repub­li­cans have pro­duced to date that the peo­ple are on their side is anec­do­tal or unsci­en­tif­ic. For exam­ple, Repub­li­cans have cit­ed par­ent respons­es to OSPI sur­veys about com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health education.

But what they haven’t admit­ted is that right wing groups opposed to CSHE mobi­lized right wing par­ents to fill out those sur­veys. The sur­vey tak­ers were self-select­ed and not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the state’s vot­ing population.

Repub­li­cans have also cir­cu­lat­ed pho­tos of crowds massed on the steps of the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing in oppo­si­tion to the bill as proof as “the peo­ple” oppose it.

Well, we have pho­tos of crowds on those same steps who sup­port the bill.

For exam­ple:

Gov­er­nor Inslee speaks to young peo­ple at the Wash­ing­ton State Capi­tol on Jan­u­ary 20th, 2020 (Pho­to: Office of the Governor)

And, oh, look: The peo­ple in this pho­to are pret­ty much all young peo­ple… the peo­ple who this bill pri­mar­i­ly affects!

When peo­ple hold pas­sion­ate views about an issue, it’s not hard to pack a hear­ing room or fill the Capi­tol steps with peo­ple. But as I said ear­li­er, such assem­blies don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly reflect the views of the vot­ing pub­lic as a whole.

Repub­li­cans seem utter­ly con­vinced that with this bill, they have found a wedge issue that they can use against Democ­rats this sum­mer and autumn in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. And they plan on going beyond mere­ly using it as fod­der for attack mail­ers in leg­isla­tive races. The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, head­ed by Trump apol­o­gist Caleb Heim­lich, has com­mit­ted itself to orga­niz­ing a ref­er­en­dum dri­ve, which, if suc­cess­ful, would force a statewide vote on the bill.

Iron­i­cal­ly, for pub­lic health rea­sons, Repub­li­cans can­not col­lect sig­na­tures against this pub­lic health leg­is­la­tion using the time-test­ed prac­tices of putting peti­tions out­side of church ser­vices or sta­tion­ing paid sig­na­ture gath­er­ers out­side of Wal­mart entrances. Pub­lic gath­er­ings are for­bid­den due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and will like­ly remain pro­hib­it­ed through the dura­tion of the time­frame of the sig­na­ture dri­ve, which must be com­plet­ed by June 12th, 2020.

It is the Con­sti­tu­tion that spells out the time­frame for a ref­er­en­dum dri­ve (nine­ty days) and that time­frame can­not be altered, not even dur­ing times of emergency.

State law does not allow elec­tron­ic sig­na­ture gath­er­ing (which is good, because that would make the prob­lem of sig­na­ture fraud much, much worse) and Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman has said she can­not accept elec­tron­ic copies of peti­tions, either, not even if the elec­tron­ic copies are scans of sig­na­tures on print­ed petitions.

Wyman has pub­licly sug­gest­ed that ref­er­en­dum back­ers dis­trib­ute peti­tions elec­tron­i­cal­ly to sup­port­ers so they can osten­si­bly be print­ed at home, signed there, and pro­vid­ed to spon­sors through the Unit­ed States Postal Service.

But state law explic­it­ly requires peti­tions to be print­ed on EDP-sized paper or big­ger, and very few peo­ple have print­ers at home that can han­dle this size.

RCW 29A.72.100:

The per­son propos­ing the mea­sure shall print blank peti­tions upon sin­gle sheets of paper of good writ­ing qual­i­ty (includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to newsprint) not less than eleven inch­es in width and not less than four­teen inch­es in length. Each peti­tion at the time of cir­cu­lat­ing, sign­ing, and fil­ing with the sec­re­tary of state must con­sist of not more than one sheet with num­bered lines for not more than twen­ty sig­na­tures, with the pre­scribed warn­ing and title, be in the form required by RCW 29A.72.110, 29A.72.120, or 29A.72.130, and have a read­able, full, true, and cor­rect copy of the pro­posed mea­sure print­ed on the reverse side of the petition.

Inter­est­ing­ly, RCW 29A.72.170 (which is a sub­se­quent pro­vi­sion lat­er on the same chap­ter) does not men­tion incor­rect paper size as one of the grounds for refusal of a peti­tion by the Sec­re­tary of State. The Supreme Court in 2018 turned back a legal chal­lenge to Ini­tia­tive 1639 that con­tend­ed the peti­tions need­ed to be reject­ed because they were improp­er­ly formatted.

Nev­er­the­less, Repub­li­cans would be tak­ing a risk if they took up the print at home idea. The right wing has pre­vi­ous­ly tried to chal­lenge the sub­mis­sion of bal­lot mea­sure sig­na­tures on form grounds, and they’d be set­ting them­selves up for a poten­tial legal chal­lenge if they open­ly dis­re­gard­ed RCW 29A.72.100.

The Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office, as required by law, has already for­mu­lat­ed the bal­lot title for their ref­er­en­dum. It is as follows:

The leg­is­la­ture passed Engrossed Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5395 con­cern­ing com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion [and vot­ers have filed a suf­fi­cient ref­er­en­dum peti­tion on this act].

This bill would require school dis­tricts to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive age-appro­pri­ate sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, as defined, for all stu­dents, con­sis­tent with state stan­dards, and excuse stu­dents if their par­ents request.

Should this mea­sure be:

[  ] Approved
[  ] Rejected

Because Ref­er­en­dum 90 is a ref­er­en­dum, the orga­niz­ers were not able to go “bal­lot title shop­ping” like many ini­tia­tive spon­sors (we’re look­ing at you, Tim Eyman) do. “Bal­lot title shop­ping” entails sub­mit­ting mul­ti­ple drafts with slight­ly dif­fer­ent pro­vi­sions in an attempt to obtain favor­able bal­lot title word­ing that polls well.

Since a ref­er­en­dum is a pro­posed vote on a bill that has already passed the Leg­is­la­ture, it isn’t pos­si­ble to go shop­ping like it would be with an ini­tia­tive. Titles can be chal­lenged through Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, however.

NPI stands ready to defend ESSB 5395 should the right wing force a statewide vote on it. We believe this leg­is­la­tion is nec­es­sary and thought­ful­ly-writ­ten. It is telling that most of the right wing’s objec­tions to it are based on straw men argu­ments. Our research strong­ly sug­gests that most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans feel very dif­fer­ent­ly about this bill than the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s base does.

When 2020 ends, we are opti­mistic that ESSB 5395 will still be on the books.

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  1. Why do all pub­lic school stu­dents need com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion? I could under­stand high school stu­dents, but why ele­men­tary school and mid­dle school stu­dents as well?

    I real­ize that this new law pre­scribes “age-appro­pri­ate” cur­ricu­lum, but that still does­n’t make me any­more com­fort­able about it being taught to younger chil­dren. I remem­ber the only sex edu­ca­tion that I got in ele­men­tary school was in fifth grade when I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a growth and devel­op­ment class. Even then, I was­n’t giv­en infor­ma­tion about the inti­ma­cy between a hus­band and wife. My mem­o­ry of sex edu­ca­tion in mid­dle school is rather fuzzy; I don’t recall that edu­ca­tion going much fur­ther than what I had learned in ele­men­tary school. It was­n’t until high school that I learned about the details of sex­u­al inti­ma­cy. There­fore, even though this com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion may not go into all of the details of sex­u­al inti­ma­cy for ele­men­tary school­ers and mid­dle school­ers, I’m still con­cerned about what may be going into the minds of young chil­dren who are still devel­op­ing a lot, both men­tal­ly and physically.

    I would hate for there to be an increase in instances of sex­u­al mis­con­duct among ele­men­tary school and mid­dle school stu­dents because they learned too much about sex­u­al inti­ma­cy before they were mature enough to under­stand it and respect it.

    I know that under this new law, par­ents can choose to opt their chil­dren out of com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, but just how many would actu­al­ly decide to do that? In my expe­ri­ence, when some­thing has been man­dat­ed as cur­ricu­lum in pub­lic school, even when stu­dents have the chance to opt-out of said cur­ricu­lum, very few, if any, do so.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, even when some­thing is con­sti­tu­tion­al and a major­i­ty of peo­ple sup­port it, that does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean it is a good idea to imple­ment. Whether you believe it or not, God judges soci­ety for wicked actions, which includes allow­ing young chil­dren to be poten­tial­ly cor­rupt­ed. God has judged many soci­eties over the mil­len­nia for their wicked­ness, and He def­i­nite­ly will do the same in our day and age, as has been fore­told in the Bible, in books like Revelation.

    In short, I am of the belief that the sign­ing of this new law, if not undone, will be some­thing that many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans will wish had nev­er hap­pened, because of the neg­a­tive con­se­quences that will like­ly result.

    # by Kaleb Fisler :: March 30th, 2020 at 10:11 PM
    • State Sen­a­tors Lisa Well­man and Claire Wil­son tack­led the ques­tion you ask in their op-ed this week for The Seat­tle Times (Stu­dents deserve hon­est infor­ma­tion on sex edu­ca­tion):

      One of the most ridicu­lous claims is that the cur­ricu­lum would “sex­u­al­ize” young stu­dents by teach­ing them sex­u­al skills. This is a bla­tant falsehood.

      At each grade lev­el, the cur­ricu­lum is age appro­pri­ate. The cur­ricu­lum for younger stu­dents focus­es on basic con­cepts such as stranger dan­ger; good touch, bad touch; and using your words instead of your hands. The impor­tance of this cur­ricu­lum can­not be overstated.

      When teach­ers dis­cuss “good touch, bad touch,” it’s not uncom­mon for a stu­dent to raise a hand and say, “I’ve been touched like that.” What fol­lows is typ­i­cal­ly a pri­vate inter­view with the teacher and the noti­fi­ca­tion of Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices. Some­times there’s noth­ing to wor­ry about. More often, CPS finds the child has not been molest­ed but is in the ear­ly stages of being groomed — and begins mon­i­tor­ing to pro­tect the child from sus­pect­ed pedophiles.

      Knowl­edge is pow­er and all young peo­ple should be able to under­stand their bod­ies and how to behave appro­pri­ate­ly and respect­ful­ly towards each oth­er. That’s the goal of this leg­is­la­tion. The crit­i­cisms against it that Repub­li­cans have lev­eled are most­ly fab­ri­ca­tions, which is tru­ly unfortunate.

      Final­ly, pub­lic pol­i­cy in a free soci­ety that pro­vides for the free­dom of reli­gion can­not be based on reli­gious views, so what you think the Book of Rev­e­la­tion says and what your reli­gion teach­es about sex­u­al­i­ty can­not be the yard­stick used to deter­mine what should and should­n’t be taught in Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools.

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: April 1st, 2020 at 10:02 AM
  2. I don’t under­stand what you mean when you say, “pub­lic pol­i­cy in a free soci­ety that pro­vides for the free­dom of reli­gion can­not be based on reli­gious views,” as the First Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion does­n’t pro­hib­it this. The First Amend­ment states that, “Con­gress shall make no law respect­ing an estab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free exer­cise thereof.” 

    What this means is that Con­gress can­not decide that the nation­al reli­gion is going to be Catholi­cism or Islam, or decide that cit­i­zens are not free to prac­tice what­ev­er reli­gious beliefs they have.

    A nation­al reli­gion is one of sev­er­al things that the Found­ing Fathers want­ed to pre­vent from becom­ing a real­i­ty. At the time, in Europe, and even in some of the thir­teen colonies that would lat­er become states, the gov­ern­ment dic­tat­ed that every­one should hold the same reli­gious beliefs. Of course, this was tyran­ni­cal, and a soci­ety could not be free under such laws.

    All of this does­n’t mean that leg­is­la­tors can­not make their deci­sions based on their reli­gious beliefs. Even those who claim to have no reli­gious beliefs may be mak­ing their deci­sions based on their sec­u­lar world­view, which actu­al­ly could be reli­gious, in the case of athe­ism, for exam­ple. An athe­ist refus­es to acknowl­edge that any high­er pow­er exists, and there­fore, the lack of such belief has a reli­gious com­po­nent to it, in the same man­ner that the pres­ence of such belief does.

    Also, if we take a look at many of our laws, they can be traced back to the Ten Com­mand­ments. Laws mak­ing mur­der, steal­ing, and per­jury, a form of lying, ille­gal can all be found to have their basis in the Ten Com­mand­ments, which say that all of these actions are sinful.

    Our laws have to have some moral basis in them, which often­times, comes from reli­gion. There has to be a stan­dard for what is right and what is wrong, oth­er­wise, chaos ensues when each per­son decides that he or she can do what­ev­er he or she wants, because it is thought to be right in his or her own mind.

    So to me, you don’t real­ly seem to under­stand what the First Amend­ment actu­al­ly says, and how it applies to actions our gov­ern­ment can take.

    # by Kaleb Fisler :: April 3rd, 2020 at 10:09 AM
    • Kaleb, I have stud­ied Unit­ed States his­to­ry and con­sti­tu­tion­al law for decades. I have an excel­lent grasp not only of the First Amend­ment, but how it has been inter­pret­ed since it was written.

      If some­body’s reli­gious views (or a group of peo­ple’s) reli­gious views are the basis for pub­lic pol­i­cy, then peo­ple who sub­scribe to a dif­fer­ent faith tra­di­tion — or none at all — can­not enjoy the pro­tec­tions afford­ed to them by the First Amend­ment. This is why in the Unit­ed States, we have laws and court deci­sions that adhere to the prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion between church and state.

      The First Amend­ment does not mere­ly pro­hib­it Con­gress and the states from adopt­ing a nation­al reli­gion. It states explic­it­ly (and good on you for pro­vid­ing a cita­tion) that there shall be “no law respect­ing an estab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free exer­cise thereof.” 

      No law means no law.

      The Unit­ed States Supreme Court has repeat­ed­ly ruled over the years that pub­lic pol­i­cy can­not be based on reli­gious views.

      For exam­ple, in Reynolds v. Unit­ed States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878), the Court held that reli­gious duty was not a defense to a crim­i­nal indictment.

      In McCol­lum v. Board of Edu­ca­tion, 333 U.S. 203 (1948), the Court held that pub­lic schools could not set aside class time for reli­gious instruction. 

      Wrote Jus­tice Hugo Black for the Court:

      “The oper­a­tion of the state’s com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion sys­tem thus assists and is inte­grat­ed with the pro­gram of reli­gious instruc­tion car­ried on by sep­a­rate reli­gious sects. Pupils com­pelled by law to go to school for sec­u­lar edu­ca­tion are released … in part from their legal duty upon the con­di­tion that they attend the reli­gious class­es. To hold that a state can­not, con­sis­tent­ly with the First and Four­teenth Amend­ments, uti­lize its pub­lic school sys­tem to aid any or all reli­gious faiths or sects in the dis­sem­i­na­tion of their doc­trines and ideals does not … man­i­fest a gov­ern­men­tal hos­til­i­ty to reli­gion or reli­gious teach­ings. … For the First Amend­ment rests upon the premise that both reli­gion and gov­ern­ment can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the oth­er with­in its respec­tive sphere.”

      You are cor­rect that reli­gions have con­tributed to the sys­tem of laws devel­oped by human­i­ty dur­ing our species’ record­ed his­to­ry. The Ten Com­mand­ments are part of that history. 

      But so are oth­er sacred texts. 

      There is over­lap between the Ten Com­mand­ments and laws in many places, to be sure. The Ten Com­mand­ments mem­o­rably for­bid mur­der­ing and stealing. 

      But mur­der­ing and steal­ing is against the moral codes of many soci­eties, not just peo­ple who belong to a com­mu­ni­ty with an Abra­ham­ic faith tra­di­tion. Inter­est­ing­ly, although mur­der is against the law in every state in the Unit­ed States, killing some­one is not nec­es­sar­i­ly mur­der (see the Wash­ing­ton State statu­to­ry def­i­n­i­tion of mur­der here). The com­mand­ment “Thou shalt not mur­der” is some­times trans­lat­ed as “Thou shalt not kill”. 

      More impor­tant­ly, the Ten Com­mand­ments are not part of the body of laws of the Unit­ed States. 

      If they were, that would be a vio­la­tion of the First Amendment. 

      Most of the Ten Com­mand­ments are reli­gious in nature: you shall wor­ship the Lord, your God, keep the Sab­bath, thou shalt have no oth­er gods before me, thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, and thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. 

      If Amer­i­cans were required to abide by those Com­mand­ments as laid out in the Torah, then they would not have the free exer­cise of religion. 

      While it is inap­pro­pri­ate for pub­lic pol­i­cy to be based on reli­gious views, an elect­ed leader or cit­i­zen’s own reli­gious views may influ­ence how they think, speak, and vote with respect to pro­posed leg­is­la­tion — and that is fine. 

      The First Amend­ment does­n’t require elect­ed offi­cials (or cit­i­zen leg­is­la­tors) to divorce them­selves from their con­sciences while per­form­ing pub­lic duties. 

      How­ev­er, it would be com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate for an elect­ed offi­cial to use pub­lic resources to pro­mote their reli­gious views. And it would be com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate for an elect­ed offi­cial to pro­pose a law that requires oth­er peo­ple to abide by their reli­gious prac­tices. For exam­ple, if the Leg­is­la­ture tried to pass a law requir­ing peo­ple to keep the Sab­bath, that would be unconstitutional. 

      Hope­ful­ly, after read­ing this, you have a bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion of what I mean when I say “pub­lic pol­i­cy in a free soci­ety that pro­vides for the free­dom of reli­gion can­not be based on reli­gious views.”

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: April 5th, 2020 at 4:23 PM
  3. I for one sup­port this leg­is­la­tion. The kids will be alright. They will ben­e­fit from know­ing more about their bod­ies and how to set appro­pri­ate bound­aries for them­selves and their friends. No one is going to “lose their inno­cence” as a result of this legislation. 

    # by Isha Noor :: April 7th, 2020 at 6:32 AM

One Ping

  1. […] Demon­strat­ing once more that he has lit­tle regard for his own health and well-being, or that of oth­ers around him, the Belle­vue based ini­tia­tive pur­vey­or and right wing polit­i­cal oper­a­tive staged a press con­fer­ence and peti­tion sign­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty in front of the Fac­to­ria Wal­mart today, hop­ing to drum up pub­lic­i­ty for his van­i­ty guber­na­to­r­i­al run and new ini­tia­tive to abol­ish ESSB 5395, the com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion bill just signed by Gov­er­nor Inslee. […]

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