Letter to the Editor

Letters to the editor can be submitted to news@chronline.com

A vote to approve Referendum 90 is a vote to reduce sexual violence and coercion. Rising rates of STDs and sexual violence and coercion among Washington youth, even after the adoption of the 2007 Healthy Youth Act, prompted youth advocates to motivate the legislature to pass Senate Bill 5395.

The bill requires all Washington school districts to provide age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education (CSE). Otherwise, school districts that currently don’t offer CSE are not obligated to do so. The CDC reports that one in four girls and one in 13 boys experience sexual abuse. Their 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 9.7 percent of students had been forced to do “sexual things” they did not want to do. 

SB 5395 affirms that every child in Washington deserves access to skills and information to protect themselves and others from sexual violence or coercion. 

Opponents to Referendum 90 misrepresent what will be required and mandated OSPI’s Bulletin 030-20 on Learning and Teaching explains what SB 5395 requires of schools: 1. Schools already providing CSE must ensure curriculum, instruction and materials include age-appropriate information about affirmative consent and bystander training, where individuals are taught to spot the signs of sexual violence and safely intervene if possible. 2. Schools not currently providing CSE must begin preparing to incorporate age-appropriate instruction on affirmative consent and bystander training and must also consult with parents and guardians, local communities and the Washington State School Directors’ Association about comprehensive sexual health education. In grades K through 3, there is no sexual health content required — schools must provide social emotional learning to this age group. Finally, schools must inform the OSPI of any curricula used to provide CSE and describe how their instruction aligns with the requirements of the bill. It is local school districts, not OSPI, who are responsible for selecting or developing their curricula — with parent and public input. What OSPI emphasizes is age-appropriate information about affirmative consent and bystander training — not graphic sex info for your second grader, as opponents would like you to think. 

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I urge you to approve Referendum 90. Had I received CSE, perhaps I might have been able to stop the abuse I suffered as a first and second grader. The sexualization of children is a deplorable part of our culture — it is not the result of CSE. As a college freshman I was sexually harassed by a professor. When I was a college sophomore I was sexually assaulted. Childhood abuse turned me into a statistic. Take statistics seriously. Not all families are able to talk about sexual health or protect their children. 

This vote is about prevention of sexual violence and coercion — don’t let opponents of Referendum 90 convince you otherwise. Parents who disagree with the CSE their school district chooses can opt out, but should not be permitted through this referendum to opt out my children or anyone else’s by overturning SB 5395 with a no vote. Vote YES on Referendum 90.


Cecilia Hauer


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