Prepared by Marie Sullivan, WSPTA Legislative Consultant
Parents who are wondering about ESSB 5395, the comprehensive sexual health education bill, may find the following bill information or this bill report helpful. As always, I encourage people to “read the bill.” Here some things to keep in mind:
Timing & Curriculum
- If your district doesn’t currently offer comprehensive sexual health education for all students, it won’t be required to change practices in the 2021-21 school year.
- If your district has been offering comprehensive sexual health education, then it will need to add affirmative consent and bystander training.
- In the 2021-22 school year, instruction will start for grades 6-12.
- In the 2022-23 school year, instruction will start for all grades.
- OSPI hasn’t created a curriculum and no single curriculum will be required for every district across the state. Curriculum will need to meet the learning standards adopted by OSPI, which is the case with all other types of curriculum.
What about Kindergartners?
- A lot of misinformation has been offered about “sex ed” in grades K-3. For our young students, instruction is only on social and emotional learning. There is no sexuality content required in grades K-3.
- As a reminder, social-emotional learning (SEL) is all about emotions; learning how to manage them; building empathy, compassion and respect for others; setting and maintaining personal boundaries; and communication skills.
- Instruction will be done in “grade bands,” and translates into instruction in the following way:
- one time in the grade band of K-3;
- one time in the grade band 4-5;
- two times in the grade band 6-8; and
- two times in the grade band 9-12.
- In other words, instruction is not required every single grade, but a total of four times in a student’s K-12 experience.
- For many grades, it is likely that PE and health teachers will be offering the majority of the instruction, as they have in the past.
What is the role of parents and/or guardians?
- Working with parents, guardians and the community, a district will decide which grades it wants to offer the instruction and what curriculum it wants to use.
- As has been offered in the past, parents or guardians will have the option of opting their student out of the instruction – at any grade level.
- At WSPTA’s request, legislators added an amendment that requires school districts to notify parents in advance and to allow opportunities to review the curriculum.
OSPI has developed a frequently asked questions document to answer parent questions as well.
Right now, OSPI and school district administrators are overwhelmed with a nearly hourly response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Please be patient if they aren’t responding to you about this legislation. The best advice we can offer is to reach out to your school district when the time is right and ask how you and your PTA can be involved. We’ll keep providing information about this bill, but if you have questions, please send them to PTALegDir@wastatepta.org and we’ll do our best to keep this blog updated with answers.