NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

VICTORY! Comprehensive sexual health education bill is enroute to Governor Inslee

Democ­rats in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture today took the final steps to send Sen­a­tor Claire Wilson’s com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion bill to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, vot­ing along par­ty lines to con­cur in the amend­ments that the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives made to ESSB 5395 after an acri­mo­nious floor debate.

Orig­i­nal­ly request­ed by Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Chris Reyk­dal, the final ver­sion of ESSB 5395 has three main objec­tives:

  • Requires every pub­lic school to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion [CSHE] that meets cer­tain requirements.
  • Directs pub­lic schools to use review tools when choos­ing sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion cur­ric­u­la that is not on a list devel­oped by the Office of the Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruction.
  • Requires school dis­tricts to annu­al­ly iden­ti­fy to OSPI any cur­ric­u­la used to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health education

Wash­ing­ton State cur­rent­ly does not require school dis­tricts to pro­vide CSHE. Now, that is set to change. “Every pub­lic school must pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion to each stu­dent by the 2022–23 school year. This require­ment is phased in begin­ning with all pub­lic school stu­dents in grades six to twelve in the 2021–22 school year, and then all pub­lic school stu­dents in the 2022–23 school year,” non­par­ti­san staff explained in their final analy­sis of the bill.

Par­ents and guardians still have the option of excus­ing their chil­dren from receiv­ing com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion by mak­ing a for­mal writ­ten request.

Furi­ous Sen­ate Repub­li­cans attempt­ed to shut down the debate on the bill after leg­isla­tive staff mis­tak­en­ly updat­ed the bil­l’s leg­isla­tive web­page to indi­cate that the bill had received a con­cur­rence vote pri­or to the vote actu­al­ly tak­ing place. They failed. The Sen­ate vot­ed to con­tin­ue con­sid­er­ing the bill, vot­ed to con­cur in the House amend­ments, and then vot­ed again on final passage.

The roll call on final pas­sage was as follows:

ESSB 5395
Sex­u­al health education
Sen­ate vote on Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the House
3/7/2020

Yeas: 27; Nays: 21; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Car­lyle, Cleve­land, Con­way, Darneille, Das, Dhin­gra, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hunt, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mul­let, Nguyen, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Stan­ford, Takko, Van De Wege, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire)

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Beck­er, Braun, Brown, Erick­sen, For­tu­na­to, Hawkins, Holy, Hon­ey­ford, King, Muz­za­ll, O’Ban, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Shel­don, Short, Wag­oner, Walsh, War­nick, Wil­son (Lyn­da), Zeiger

Excused: Sen­a­tor Hobbs

Sen­a­tor Hobbs did not vote. The oth­er Democ­rats vot­ed aye and all the Repub­li­cans vot­ed nay. The con­cur­rence vote was iden­ti­cal to — and imme­di­ate­ly pre­ced­ed — the vote on final pas­sage. Most of the cau­cus posed for a pho­to with State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mon­i­ca Stonier fol­low­ing the proceedings.

“The hard work that we put into this bill — in both the House and Sen­ate — is well worth it because it will improve safe­ty for chil­dren statewide,” Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son said in a state­ment released by the cau­cus. “We must ensure that our kids have the tools and knowl­edge they need to rec­og­nize and resist inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior. This impor­tant edu­ca­tion will help pre­vent younger kids from being tar­get­ed by pedophiles, and help teens who feel pres­sured to have sex.”

“It also helps stu­dents stay healthy in con­sen­su­al rela­tion­ships,” Wil­son added. “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.”

Wil­son empha­sized that the bill does not man­date any cur­ricu­lum. It only requires that CSHE be taught once each year from kinder­garten until sixth grade and then twice a year there­after, with all cur­ricu­lum to be “age appro­pri­ate”. School dis­tricts retain the flex­i­bil­i­ty to decide what cur­ricu­lum they would like to offer stu­dents in the com­mu­ni­ties they serve, but can­not opt to offer any CSHE at all.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers bizarrely insist that the bill is mul­ti­ple degrees of awful, and the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty claims it will mount a ref­er­en­dum cam­paign against the bill if Gov­er­nor Inslee signs it (which he will).

In a ref­er­en­dum, a bill passed by the Leg­is­la­ture is placed before vot­ers for approval or rejec­tion. Ref­er­en­da can be leg­isla­tive­ly ordered or ini­ti­at­ed by peti­tion. A leg­isla­tive­ly ordered ref­er­en­dum is not pre­sent­ed to the gov­er­nor for sig­na­ture. A ref­er­en­dum ini­ti­at­ed by cit­i­zen peti­tion can only be insti­gat­ed fol­low­ing the gov­er­nor’s approval of the legislation.

Ref­er­en­dum sig­na­ture dri­ves must take place with­in the span of nine­ty days, and as of 2017, must gath­er 129,811 valid sig­na­tures (a fig­ure that is equiv­a­lent to four per­cent of the num­ber that vot­ed in the last elec­tion for governor).

NPI’s research finds extreme­ly strong and broad sup­port for ESSB 5395.

67% of like­ly Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed last autumn expressed sup­port for the bill, while just 22% were opposed and 11% were not sure.

Cou­ple that research with the fact that a ref­er­en­dum would appear on the Novem­ber 2020 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot — which is when the elec­torate tends to be much larg­er and more pro­gres­sive — and you’ve got a very favor­able envi­ron­ment in which to defend the leg­is­la­tion if it were sub­ject­ed to a pub­lic vote.

ESSB 5395 is one of our leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties for 2020. We’re delight­ed to see it leave the Leg­is­la­ture and head to Gov­er­nor Inslee. Con­grat­u­la­tions to State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mon­i­ca Stonier, Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son, and all who worked on this bill for their efforts. Spe­cial thanks to Sen­a­tors Mona Das and Man­ka Dhin­gra for their pas­sion­ate and elo­quent floor speech­es in sup­port of the bill today.

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2 Pings

  1. […] North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute worked hard for, espe­cial­ly the Reusable Bag Bill and com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion. The Leg­is­la­ture also passed bills spon­sored by NPI’s Gael Tar­leton to strengthen […]

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