by Sarah Muir
Last month, the Washington State legislature passed mandatory comprehensive sex ed [sexual education] aka SB 5395. I strongly support the passage of this bill. It is long overdue that we mandate LGBTQIA+ representation and consent in all sex education curricula in all Washington public schools.
I grew up on Bainbridge Island, in a seemingly liberal neighborhood in Kitsap County that had a subpar sex education curriculum. The extent of our high school sex education was a single semester-long portion of our freshman health class.
This brief education covered STIs, contraceptives, reproductive health, and LGBTQIA+ relationships, but did not teach affirmative consent. If I had received education on consent, I might have been able to recognize coercion and emotional abuse in my earlier relationships. Many times before, I thought I had to say yes, and I did not know I could say no.
This bill requires students from grades K–3 to learn about social and emotional learning. I wish I had learned about boundaries and that I had the power to say no to things I did not want to happen to my body.
The #MeToo era has shown us affirmative consent is critical in forming healthy relationships between two people. Ninety-two percent of Washington voters agree that young people need to understand what a healthy relationship looks like and learn good communication skills before they become sexually active.1
When more than 1 in 5 Washington high school seniors2 have experienced unwanted kissing, sexual touch, and intercourse, we have a public health crisis on our hands. We need this comprehensive sex ed bill to empower young people to be able to recognize abuse and report it, and thus bring these statistics down and protect Washington students and families.
Spearheaded by anti-sex ed activists, Referendum 90 began collecting signatures this past weekend. This referendum would overturn this new sex education law. Please decline to sign this referendum and protect the health and lives of Washington students.
- Washington Public Opinion Research on Sex Education, Planned Parenthood Action.
- Youth at Risk – the Need for Sexual Health Education in School, Washington State OSPI.
Sarah Muir is a resident of South Seattle’s Othello neighborhood.
Featured image: original artwork by Jessie McKenna.