Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Sen. Claire Wilson, D-District 30. File photo

Sen. Claire Wilson, D-District 30. File photo

By Sen. Lisa Wellman and Sen. Claire Wilson

In nearly seven hours of floor speeches in the House and Senate this session, a vocal minority argued vociferously against legislation to require comprehensive sexual health education in all public schools. Though the speakers claimed to address the curriculum, many of their comments were so outlandish that we feel obliged to set the record straight on this important new law.

In an irony that would be comical if the consequences weren’t so serious, the speeches demonstrated the very need for the legislation — in lieu of factual, science-based information, the public is at the mercy of misinformation from unreliable sources.

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.

In older grades, the curriculum focuses not on the graphic sex acts its opponents allege but on how to help students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior; the medical and economic implications of their choices; and how to make sound decisions about their health and future. Perhaps most importantly in this #MeToo era, they are taught about affirmative consent and how to resist peers who pressure them for sex.

Some opponents seem so fixated on the word “sexual” that they exaggerate its emphasis in the curriculum, with one group going so far as to call the legislation “SeXXX Ed” in an obvious effort to spur outrage. But if any word deserves additional emphasis, it should be “health,” as the curriculum is more accurately described as education about student health and the ramifications of sexual actions — from the stress of an unplanned pregnancy to the potentially lifelong effects of an STI.

It’s also about teaching what healthy relationship behavior looks like. As two King County senior deputy prosecuting attorneys maintain in a recent op-ed, this is the kind of education that can help prevent sexual and domestic violence.

Another frequent refrain of opponents, and equally spurious, is that the legislation suspends parental control and forces children to attend sex education classes. To be clear: any child can opt out at parental request, and parents have the same rights they have always had to review materials and work through their local school boards to oversee their children’s curriculum.

With similar mendacity, opponents suggest the legislation introduces a radical new curriculum to encourage sexual activity. But there’s nothing new or radical about this except their efforts to mislead and manipulate parents.

Many people are unaware that comprehensive sexual health education is already taught in many school districts across the state. In Federal Way public schools, for example, students have received comprehensive sexual health education for years. There’s been no uproar or alarm in Federal Way, or in other school districts, because the age-appropriate curriculum is non-controversial and effective.

We’re aware that some parents have strong feeling about this law. These same parents deserve to be given accurate, truthful information about the curriculum their children will be taught.

Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) and Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn) are the chair and vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Rethinking a natural gas ban in Washington state | Brunell

Sometimes being first isn’t good. Such is the case with legislation making… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Needle exchange program: Compassion vs. intolerance | Roegner

One of the more creative methods for treating drug users is the… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Democrats, Republicans, budgets and taxes | Roegner

Because the Democrats control the state’s House, Senate and the Governor’s Office,… Continue reading

Jayendrina Singha Ray is a PhD (ABD) in English, with a research focus on the works of the South African Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee. She teaches English Composition and Research Writing at Highline College, WA, and has previously taught English at colleges in India.
Asian women and racial violence in the aftermath of Atlanta | Guest column

In her famous essay “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Hélène Cixous resurrects… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
When a sheriff is under investigation | Roegner

I have always viewed the position of sheriff as a non-political professional… Continue reading

An AR-15 and a loaded magazine were recovered from a suspect in a shooting incident at the Kent Station parking garage in 2019. (King County Sheriff’s Office)
Editorial: Lawmakers test public’s patience on gun laws

There were more than 24,000 firearm deaths last year, yet state and national lawmakers seem immovable.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Violence Against Women Act becomes political victim | Roegner

The last thing this country need is to politicize violence against women.… Continue reading

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com.
The state of Federal Way’s forward-thinking ‘vision’ | Livingston

I watched the mayor of Federal Way’s 2021 State of the City… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Tax on capital gains stirs debate in Olympia | Roegner

Going into the 2021 legislative session, there were many major issues for… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Voter suppression and the stolen election myth | Roegner

The next two years are going to be as partisan as the… Continue reading

Stock photo
The right to vote helps rehumanize incarcerated people | Guest column

By Kim Bogucki, For The Mirror In 2008, I began asking incarcerated… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Federal Way mayor’s State of the City address opens election season | Roegner

Recently, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell gave his annual State of the… Continue reading