In the middle of March, hundreds rallied on the steps of the Washington State Capitol Building to protest a bill that would require sex and health education for every student in the state, at every age. They called on Governor Jay Inslee to veto Senate Bill 5395, which was expected to soon hit his desk, saying that education about sexual health and consent should be left up to the parents.

SB 5395 is the Senate version of HB 2184, a law for comprehensive sex and bodily autonomy legislation, introduced to the Washington House of Representatives in January.

On March 27, 2020, Gov. Inslee signed that bill into law. The new curriculum, which will begin in the 2021-22 school year for grades six and above, and in following years for younger students, will be left up to individual district boards within certain standards. It also has an opt-out clause available to all parents.

State Senator Claire Wilson (D), the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, called the sex education bill necessary to increase childhood safety statewide.

“This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators,” said Wilson. “It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior. It’s about teaching all children to respect diversity and not to bully others.”

Addressing parents’ fears of sex education in kindergarten, State Rep. Monica Stonier, who sponsored the bill in the House, called the fears of the protesters “not based on facts.”

The standards for the new curriculum for the youngest students don’t include anything about reproduction. Instead, the young elementary students will have one hour a year to talk about appropriate touching and the differences between girls’ and boys’ bodies. As children get older, the lessons will evolve to include consent, bullying, monitoring their own health, when to ask for help, and other things everyone needs to know to build healthy relationships.

“This bill will help schools provide students with the age-appropriate tools they need to keep themselves safe and healthy, while maintaining local control in districts,” said Stonier to KOMO News.

Photo: The state capital of Washington in Olympia. Credit: Shutterstock