Sex education bill in Legislature gets little support in 12th District

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Already approved by the Senate, a comprehensive sex education bill in the Washington Legislature is finding little support in 12th District of North Central Washington, according to a poll done by Sen. Brad Hawkins.

The bill has been controversial with many because it implements mandatory sex education beginning with kindergarteners.

It also requires instruction on consent and says the curriculum must “be inclusive and use language and strategies that recognize all members of a protected class under Washington law.”

Classes protected from discrimination under state law involve certain races, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.

Almost 1,600 people vote in poll

Hawkins voted against the bill in the Senate, where it was passed by a 28-21 vote. He said the state should allow locally elected school officials to decide the issue of sex education. In addition, he said it was unclear what would be considered “comprehensive” and “age appropriate,” especially for kids as young as kindergarten.

Hawkins then sought feedback from his constituents by sending out an email newsletter Feb. 3 with a link to the poll.

Asked whether they supported Senate Bill 5395, more than 62 percent of the almost 1,600 people who responded said no.

When asked if the state or local school districts should decide whether sex education should be taught, almost 59 percent said it should be local districts.

Brian Zylstra, a legislative aide for Hawkins, said there also were “several hundred” comments provided by people who responded.

Washington currently is one of 21 state that do not require schools to teach sex education.

The bill would have the state superintendent of public instruction’s office come up with age-appropriate sex education programs that individual school districts could choose from.

Beginning in September, comprehensive sex education would be phased in with grades six through 12 receiving the instruction.

By September 2021, it would be mandatory for grades kindergarten through fifth, as well.

There were 13 attempts to add amendments to the bill in the Senate, with all failing, except one introduced by Hawkins.

His amendment says “school districts must grant a parent’s or legal guardian’s written request to have his or her child excused from this instruction.”

The comprehensive sex education legislation was first introduced last year and was approved February 2019 by the Senate, again by a 28-21 vote. It was not, however, approved in the House.

The House Education Committee held a hearing on SB 5395 on Thursday, with a long line of supporters and opponents testifying.

Whether it comes to a full vote of the House will probably be decided next week.