Referendum 90 will require Washington school districts to provide comprehensive sexual health education. The instruction must be medically accurate, age appropriate and inclusive of all students. Students will be excused if requested by their parents. School districts will select or design their own curriculum that fits these guidelines.
It is a fact that comprehensive, science-based sexual health education delays the average start of sexual activity and reduces teen pregnancies, abortions, sexual assaults and STDs among young people by making them aware of their body functions and giving them clear understanding of boundaries and consent.
If truth sets us free, in this case truth also keeps us and our kids safer.
As a sex-crimes prosecutor told me recently, “the last thing an abuser wants is an educated victim.”
Islanders may be surprised to know that every school district in Island County already provides R90-compliant curriculum taught by the wonderful people at Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse. CADA community educators teach healthy relationships at the youngest grades and work though more complicated issues of relationship boundaries, healthy communication, understanding consent, healthy sexuality and a clear awareness of sexual assault in grades 9-12.
So, to be clear, R90 will change nothing in Island County schools.
There are valid concerns about this legislation. Is it legislative overreach? Or an unfunded mandate? It’s natural and right to worry about burdensome regulations. But do these issues outweigh the safety of our children? Are we willing to leave them more vulnerable to abuse because we don’t want the legislature telling us what to do?
Beyond legitimate questions, there is unfounded fear about R90. No, your fourth graders won’t be taught to masturbate; teens won’t be turned into predators; kids won’t be indoctrinated so they come out gay; sex topics won’t get inserted into other subjects. That’s not how any of this works. Specific curriculum is determined by the local school board, not the state.
Please vote your conscience on this crucial issue. But please base your vote on the facts. The full text of R90 and the legislation behind it, SB5395, can be found online.