This Thursday might be your final chance to weigh in on a bill that would force every school in the state to incorporate wide-ranging sex ed into classrooms, starting in kindergarten.
A “comprehensive sexual health education” (CSE) bill from last year recently passed the Senate. (19th District Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, voted yes. 20th District Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, voted no.) The bill is now up for a public hearing at 8 a.m. this Thursday in the House Education Committee.
Opponents of the bill are encouraging supporters of local choice in sex education to show up in force, wearing green as a color of opposition to Senate Bill 5395.
This issue is frustrating for me and other parents who believe that students do need to learn basic biology about reproduction and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. My own children’s school district does a great job of this right now. We are engaged with our local school districts and can weigh in on their curriculum.
Unfortunately, the bill being proposed in Olympia isn’t a simple “birds and bees” curriculum. The goal of the bill’s sponsors in this and other states is to incorporate so-called sexual health education, including affirmation of the latest gender theories, into the fabric of public schools.
The bill would take away local control from every district in the Lewis County area and the state. School boards could technically have a choice of which sex ed curriculum they’d like to use, but by law, every option would have to conform to a detailed set of state guidelines (www.bit.ly/WA-Sex-Ed-Standards). It’s a little like saying, “you can pick any color you want, as long as it’s red.” Not coincidentally, Planned Parenthood, a major advocate for the bill, also happens to produce a curriculum that meets the bill’s specific requirements exactly.
Under the state standards, every kindergartner would be taught that “there are many ways to express gender.”
By fourth grade, children would have to be able to define sexual orientation.
In seventh grade, they would be taught to “Distinguish between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”
Parents would have the right to opt-out their children (assuming parents are aware of that right; the bill doesn’t require that they be notified), but the very nature of “comprehensive” education is that it spreads into other disciplines. And these mandates would change the nature of school for the entire population, including those students opted out of particular lessons.
There’s a Facebook group with good updates on the bill and related issues. Search for “SW Washington, Parents’ Rights In Education.” Of particular interest are posts that show some of the curriculum approved under CSE standards — many of which cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
This is a difficult issue. The cultural forces of our society, especially in mass media, are pushing to sexualize our children at an early age. That’s hard enough for parents to navigate. But this bill brings the sexualization of our society into the official curriculum of our public schools, and that’s more than what many of us can stand.
As I was writing this, I received an early morning email from Carol Schultz in Winlock who writes: “Please keep up the articles regarding legislative issues that affect us all but do not represent our values. Often things are passed before we have a chance to respond ... Your reporting is extremely helpful in letting people know what is going on during this time of assault on our way of life, so please keep it up.”
Schultz sent me a copy of a letter she emailed to lawmakers, and I was struck by this line she told our elected officials: “Please acknowledge the right and responsibility for communities to work in the best interest of their citizens without trying to force agendas upon us.”
This bill isn’t yet a done deal. I urge you to contact your lawmakers on SB 5395. (There’s also a House version, HB 2184, that appears to have died — however, longtime legislative observers say that any bill can be resurrected, zombie-like, at the last minute. Best to weigh in on this bill with your legislators as well.)
The legislative hotline is 1-800-562-6000. It’s very simple to use — give them your address and tell them the bill numbers, along with your opinion of the bills.
There are many of us who believe that our children deserve both basic knowledge of sexual realities, as well as the chance to grow up with a little innocence. Those goals aren’t mutually exclusive — but these proposals in Olympia will make it harder.
Brian Mittge was a Chronicle journalist for a dozen years, and now writes a weekly community issues column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.