sex education written on black board
At the heart of the referendum: Should this be legal?

The Washington State government and an influential religious group are heading towards a collision course at the ballot box this November as they vie for control over sex education in public schools. 

Earlier this year, the Washington State legislature passed a comprehensive sex education bill that Governor Jay Inslee signed into law. The new curriculum will teach children about consent, STDs, and contraception, and issues facing LGBTQ students, with age-appropriate lessons beginning as early as the kindergarten level. 

The change has Catholics in the state furious. They argue the proposed sex-ed course goes way too far and exposes young people to harmful ideas that ought to be saved until kids are older (or not taught at all). 

They're trying to overturn the bill with a referendum that’s made its way onto the November ballot, with the goal of rolling back the sex-ed bill before it can even be implemented.

The referendum to overturn the law gathered over 264,000 signatures statewide, the most signatures any referendum has garnered in the last four decades.

So what’s in the bill, and why has it drawn such vitriol?

What's on the Chalkboard?

The bill, Senate Bill 5395, implements mandatory sex education in all Washington State public schools by the 2022-2023 school years.

The curriculum is phased so as to remain age-appropriate; students in kindergarten through 3rd grade would only learn things like the correct names for their body parts and abuse prevention measures like how to locate a trusted adult.

Students in junior high and high school will learn about the topics most of us probably associate with sex education: pregnancy, STD prevention, contraception. For younger students, lessons will be one hour once a year. Older students will receive lessons twice a year.

Schools are free to choose their own curriculum so long as it matches the requirements set by law, and parents can opt students out at any time without issue.

Parents can opt students out, it’s one or two hours once a year – what’s the big deal?

Charges of an "LGBT Agenda"

For faith groups in Washington, the answer seems pretty clear: they aren't happy that the new sex-ed courses feature LGBT issues. 

“This… will be used to advance an LGBT agenda,” says Caleb Backholm of My Faith Votes. “Students will be taught that homosexual sex is just as normal and good as heterosexual sex,” he laments.

“They will only hear the information from one side – that of the LGBTQ advocates.”

Mario Villanueva, executive director of the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC), says the curriculum also “steps on our teaching that sexual activity is to be reserved for the sacrament of marriage.”

The WSCC also opposes the bill on an anti-LGBTQ front as well, as Catholic doctrine says that sex is between a man and a woman only.

It’s likely that the whopping 264,000+ signatories agree with Mr. Villanueva and Mr. Backholm. Two-thirds of the signatures were collected at church sites, many of them Catholic parishes.

Aggravation Over Sex Education

Of course, proponents of the comprehensive sex ed bill are using the arguments they’ve used since the inception of sex ed bills: It’s safe, it reduces teen pregnancy rates, it protects children, and parents can opt their child out at any time. 

Research shows that comprehensive sex-ed does not increase teen pregnancies or STD rates. In fact, students who received comprehensive sex-ed were 60% less likely to be involved in a teen pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education.

What do you think? Should comprehensive sex-ed be taught in our schools? When it comes to sex, should God or science be our teacher?

38 comments

  1. Walter Eugene Curtis's Avatar Walter Eugene Curtis

    Age-appropriate is a key notion here. Correct labels used in open conversation at home are important for self-understanding and self-acceptance. This gives children the language to ask questions about themselves and others that arise in the normal course of life. Since bodies start maturing sexually between the ages of 9 to 11 in most people, I think 9 is a good age to begin to learn about menstruation and erections, and how they relate to creating life (or continuing the species). With this background, children around 12 or so will be ready to add to their understanding how hormones are influencing new views of themselves and others, including attraction, self-care, hygiene, etc.

    This still leaves plenty of room for individual families to add their particular take on appropriate interpersonal, societal and religious- or philosophy-based behaviors in the domain of sex. -- Sometimes, I wonder if people object to sex education because they still don't understand it themselves, and are thus somewhat frightened of it, projecting their own fears onto their children/families.

    1. Reverend Hannah Grace's Avatar Reverend Hannah Grace

      Walter Eugene Curtis - That was a really good post IMO. The important thing is for kids to get the information they need at each age. Knowing about sex could help prevent child abuse by letting kids know what IS and IS NOT appropriate for others to do to their bodies.

      AGE APPROPRIATE is the important note here. Each child needs to be given the information that is relevant to them at that stage of their life. I was told very little about sex because my parents were embarrassed about it, and yet they obviously had sex because they had seven children! And sex education in school was taught by a woman who was pregnant with twins.Her take on it was that masturbation was ok until you got married. Then it shouldn't happen because you should get satisfied by your partner. WTF???

      Kids need good quality, age appropriate sex/health/hygiene education from trained and qualified teachers. And religion has been involved in way too many abuse cases to make it the arbiter of what kids need to know.

  1. Chris's Avatar Chris

    It's funny how the groups who claim "agendas" seem to be the ones pushing theirs. I have no problem with my children learning sex ed in school because I also talked to them at home about it. If these "parents" can't bother themselves to have frank open discussions with their children why are they opposed to someone else doing it? It's basic biology. Children need to learn these things to understand their own bodies and how they're changing, otherwise they'll start experimenting without knowledge.

  1. Dave J's Avatar Dave J

    "Sex is only between a man and a woman." according to the Catholics. Or between a priest and his young victim.

    LQBTQ Agenda. Hmm, the LQBTQ agenda I am aware of is to treat every person with dignity and compassion. That doesn't seem to be a bad thing. In all my dealings with LGBTQ folk (and in my work, that's a lot, but certainly not a majority of my contacts) I have NEVER had anyone try to convert me. "Psst. Hey, want to try gay sex? I'm sure you'll like it." On numerous occasions I have had religious folk try and get me to join their bronze age fantasy religion.

    Sex Ed should be taught in the home or the church. Again, Hmm. In the current Covid-19 pandemic (which is real, btw) parents are complaining that they aren't equipped to teach basic skills to their children, and they should be in school to learn math and language skills. What is more basic than knowing the names of body parts or how to find a trusted adult to tell them about an issue? Many parents are not equipped to talk about STIs and preventing pregnancy. Abstinence only teaching directly results in pregnancies.

    This is once again religions nuts trying to foist their ideas of hypocritical morality on the rest of us. Just say no.

    1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

      Unfortunately sex education is a public health concern that is often ignored or downplayed at home. It affects everyone the child in question will be in contact with once old enough to be making those choices. Like it or not, making sure everyone knows the health related consequences is far more important to leave it strictly to home and religion. Granted, the religious ideals should also be taught as the family sees fit, but we don't live in bubbles. The science related should also be taught on a more public education level as well.

      1. Jean Bakula's Avatar Jean Bakula

        Thank you. Said well and concisely.

    2. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      How could parents with children not be equipped to teach basic skills to their children? Don't they know where their chidden came from?

      1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

        All to often they have n o clue how to teach I know a woman that when her daughter began to menstruate that if she had sex during her period would get pregnant she also told her son masturbating would make him go blind and it was sinful .

        As a paramedic it was shocking what some folks believed and tried to force everyone else to do . Its kinda along the lines of Fundy churches trying to ban school dances because dancing with the other sex creates lust and sin and we all know their feeling s on same sex issues .

        I have know LGBT folks all my life none have ever tried to get me to try it all they really asked was to be treated as a normal human with rights to be whom ever they were and allowed to love their way .

        wanna be sure your kid grows up ignorant use your church propaganda teach them your way .

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          Stewart have you seen the Mormon pamphlets given to boys about masturbating? It states if you masturbate God would cause hair to grow on the palms of your hands and that it is a sin. I think other religions taught you would go blind.

          Christians use religion to justify while male supremacy. And we know the best way to do that is to use the Bible and the wrath of God, than science education. Knowledge is power.

      2. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

        If that's all there was to know about sex, then, yes, all parents would be equipped to teach the basic skills to children - part P goes into part V, R, M or any other part in which it fits. Or part F goes into the same orifices as well as smaller ones. As Stewart pointed out, there are many more aspects to teaching sex than most parents realize - until they try.

        Not arguing with you, just pointing out that know 2 apples + friction usually creates apple sauce, but most people cannot teach that concept.

      3. Jean Bakula's Avatar Jean Bakula

        Most parents DON'T discuss sex or birth control with their children. That's why so many girls get pregnant at 16, by boys who are too young to work or marry, and Christians want to overturn Roe V Wade. Children shouldn't be raising children. If the education is age appropriate, schools would be doing the families who won't discuss anything related to sex a big favor. Try watching a few shows on TLC or MTV and see how kids in the Bible belt are so ignorant of sexual matters, they get pregnant really young. All the burden is on the girl, all her dreams are over, because grandparents in these times work. They can't babysit.

        I have a lot of LGBTQ clients, and they know what they identify as at very young ages, before kindergarten. The other kids know they are "different." It would be better to teach inclusion, as Jesus practiced. Nobody is forced or taught to be in any of these groups. That is just plain ignorance again.

        Also, this is a secular country. I am sick of religious people trying to make our laws, like Amy Coney Barrett being rushed into the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. If people don't believe in birth control or abortion, they don't have to use it. But don't use your religion and push it on the rest of us who want small families, or no children at all. Age appropriate teachings at school would be better than a Dad asking his kindergarten son, "Is your teacher hot?" I live in a blue state supposed to be liberal, and the ignorance regarding sex is astounding. Forgive me for discussing so many topics. But I talk with a lot of young people, and they do not have adequate information.

      4. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

        As a sex therapist I have many times had the experience of single mothers asking me to have "the talk" with their sons. I always agree, but because I want to foster open communication between parent and child I say the mother will have to participate.

        In many cases, mothers, who apparently "know where their chidden came from," did not know many important things about sex and sexuality. This has frequently included "consent, STDs, and contraception," three of the issues addressed in the Washington law. Regarding "issues facing LGBTQ students," in two cases boys have "come out" to their mothers during our sessions, once they saw that they were open to talking about such issues.

        Frankly, it takes little knowledge to make a baby. You can even do it by accident! It takes far more to prevent making a baby, or to build a healthy relationship.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    One whiner lamented, “Students will be taught that homosexual sex is just as normal and good as heterosexual sex,".

    Any evidence it isn't?

    1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

      Comment removed by author.

    2. Robert A Stiff's Avatar Robert A Stiff

      Simple, succinct and to the point. Great response.

    3. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

      Apparently, their Pope agrees with that position, since he has come out in favor of civil unions between gay couples. Unless they think he meant sexless civil unions!

  1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

    Its really not even just about sex, but our body in general. To speak frankly all one has to do is pay attention to the kind of things that get spoken of as a lack of hygiene in folks because their parents wont even instruct them how to properly clean their intimate bits.

    Let me give you a somewhat personal real world example. I was not circumcized, my father was not either. I was taught as a very small child how to clean under the foreskin while I bathed myself, and never once in all my life have I had any issues with infections or odor.

    However I knew a kid whose mom had been raising him on her own, and he too never had a circumcision, why I know not. However when he was about 12 he ended up having a serious infection because of a lack of hygiene that lead to having to remove abit more then just the foreskin. He was pretty messed up after that poor guy.

    My point being, a large part of the issue is still a needless prudish view of the body, nudity, and sex in general.

  1. Mia Shay Emery's Avatar Mia Shay Emery

    I'm going to weigh in here. I think some sex ed is needed at an early age, its an unfortunate necessity brought on by the state of our society. If I had recieved some form of sex education at an early age, even just been taught about what was 'good touching' and 'bad touching' and that even a parent may not do bad touching, then I wouldnt have spent my childhood being molested by my stepfather because he had taught me that all daddies played like that with their little girls but its something people dont talk about. You can't leave the teaching up to the parents because a lot of the time the parent is the abuser.

  1. Loney Burns's Avatar Loney Burns

    I have to admit this topic was discussed and handled maturely by all in the discussion. No name calling or ridicule. I believe it would be great if parents could teach their own children about the biological developments of each child. But if taught in a, let’s say science or biology manner, no degrading or guilty intentions, a young person can learn the fact of life. I again thank everyone for a good discussion.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    THE QUESTION SHOULD BE, WHEN and HOW MUCH, and @ WHAT AGE, and WHO TEACHES and WHERE ??????

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Shouldn’t we factor biology into this? With women as young as 6 being able to become pregnant and have a child maybe we need to start earlier. In some parts of the world women becoming pregnant at 11 or 12 is common and considered normal.

    As a side topic don’t you think men should be taught the difference between “real” sex instead of porn sex?

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      Sorry, a 6 year old female child is not a woman. She is a child.

  1. Robert James Bennett's Avatar Robert James Bennett

    So what's wrong with doing it the way it's always been done: Sex-Ed at school, in 7th grade? Ok, maybe a year earlier, what with hormone-accelerated puberty. Starting in kindergarten is just absurd.

    1. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

      Yes. Because that has worked SO well!

      I can understand how some would not want to teach young kids about consent. Heaven forbid they learn they are allowed to say "no!"

    2. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

      In a recent survey, 70% of American men reported that their PRIMARY source of sex education had been pornography. That is part of "doing it the way it's always been done."

      Also, the idea of teaching about sex in school is relatively new. When kids grew up on farms, they learned far more from their day-to-day experiences than kids ever did in the factory schools of the 20th century.

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    We do not live in a Puritan society of repression. Parents often do not teach this and some are horribly unqualified to do so. This must be a subject taught in public schools. There is no excuse to live in the Dark Ages of religious control over our lives.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    I remember my sex education at school with great fondness. Perhaps it would have been more beneficial/appropriate if it had been from a sex ed class I guess.

    🦁♥️

  1. Rev. Laurie G. Cleveland RN's Avatar Rev. Laurie G. Cleveland RN

    When I grew up, my sex talk was done when I was 8 or 9 and was given one of those Kotex boxes with a pamphlet in it. Totally forgot about it. When I was 24, I hot my period and freaked out because thete was all of this blood. My mum and her friend were laughing at me! When my daughtet was old enough to give her "the talk", I hot her 2 dad's from the library. One was entitled "What every Teenager Wants to Know about Sex," and the other was z National Geographic movie on Life from conception forward. I then asked her if she had any questions, etc. Later on, I think when she was a sophomore or junior, she got to take home this baby that would go off ag sny time and you had to figure out the problem. She said thst she threw it out the window once, looked exhausted and said thst she was hood snd that she would wait. Famous ladt words. She got pregnant in August 2006, supposedly because the condom broke. Being a nurse, my solution was to go to the local pharmacy snd get the pill and double it up for a week. She didn't want to use my doctor and the one she went to, a Right to Lifer, said thst she could hear a heartbear, which means that she totally lied and too late for an abortion and too young to be a parent. She snd the dad knew wbdolutely NOTHING about babies, and do the hospital insisted thst I take custody of both, which I did, so they had Baby Bootcamp for 3 months. I told the judge that if it became apparent that they were incapable of caring gor him, that I would take him back permanently. Now as to the 2uestion. Really depends upon when the girl is most likely to become a womdn physically and the same for the boys. Boys really need it to be impressed upon them, responsibility that comes with this. Far too many babies having bwbies.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    If the parents aren't or prepared or equipped to teach basic skills to their children they should send them to the church where the female pastor is now a stripper/sex worker.

    Anyone remember the religious leader in Oregon, Rajneesh? He preached open love and had an open attitude toward human sexuality. Once his followers staged the single largest bioterrorist attack in the United States his religion fell apart. The land is now a Christian camp. I wonder if all of the Christians who have stayed there know about all of the sex that took place there with the previous inhabitants.

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    Children shouldn't learn about sex from their peers or the streets.I feel that's the worst place to learn about it.Some parents seem embarrassed to talk about sex w/ their children.They don't want it taught in schools.When chiledren start asking questions about sex I hope parents are prepared to help them w/ the subject.There are books to aid parents in this discussion.Utilize them?

  1. Kenneth Zambello's Avatar Kenneth Zambello

    Definitely not does your not be taught that because it corrodes the mind and also brings the devil into play I vote no

  1. Theodore Conrad Desmarais's Avatar Theodore Conrad Desmarais

    Of Course We will never have agreement as Religious Organizations have used the guilt trip over sex since Adam and Eve fantasy story to promote patriarchy and Domination by Force ( righteous wars against unbelievers) for over 10,000 years .

    Fact : our bodies are shaped by activity: hence Strictly controlled female sexuality ( harems) like Gorillas have tiny testicles as ( hazelnut) very small amounts of sperm and frequency of copulations are low, whereas in the opposite : common Chimpanzee has very large testicles ( lime ) as they are in a multi male tournament Species and gave high frequency and large amounts , Homo sapiens and Pan Paniscus ( Bonibo ) have medium testicles . This means for millions of years monogamy is not natural to our species and bisexuality is normal . Fact 2 : There are only 2 organizing Mechanisms if society: Domination by Force : All primitive societies: lions, wolves, common chimps : humans for at least 10,000 years etc And ..... Democracy by Consensus: Dolphins , Bonobos and in certain early civilizations ( possibly Crete ) and certain groups like the Mosou of China, In which sexuality rather than violence is the organizer and entertainment if the society . make Love 💕 not War : Bonobos do not kill each other ever . So Sex Positive society is good ( sex is always acceptable with exceptions for rape, disease, unwanted pregnancy, etc ) and not Sex Negative society which is sex is bad or to be hidden , forgotten etc , with exceptions ( procreation, with marriage license, romance for heterosexual monogamy, Young males on military leave, etc ) Fact three : fetus masturbation has been observed with ultrasound and babies and infants spontaneously masturbate and are punished, shamed and otherwise discouraged from their natural sexuality. So sex is normal and good for all ages . So obviously we are in a Sex negative society and homosexual, Bisexual and Sex for Bonding, Trade and Recreation are outright illegal in the vast majority of human societies and so “right and “wrong” are also subject to ones circumstances. Where there is no freedom of speech or thought then being literally sent to the gas chamber has occurred.

    So one can look up more facts but I think that answers the question asked . The Religious ( Catholic, Muslim, etc ) Organizations are primitive: a better more advanced way to be is Sex Positive. Make Love 💕 not War literally. Violent ( action ) stories , movies, boxing, fighting video games and cartoons, are all maintaining the Dominator paradigm and Patriarchal system which needs replacing ( Flower Power, Hippy, Renaissance, Ancient Greek Rites , etc) With Universalism .

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      👆Theodore, you’re the man! Please can I get an invite to your next party 😎

      🦁❤️

      1. Theodore Conrad Desmarais's Avatar Theodore Conrad Desmarais

        Thx 🙏 It will be awhile , as in years 🌞🪐 However it is already in the planning stages . www.alienoutpostresort.com Outposts in Maine, Saturn Nevada and Big Hawaii 🌴 Shops involved in Clothes, foods and flowers, furniture, a/v media, aquazonedesigns.com and electronic systems design and installation ( home theater and solar) aquazone@protonmail.com What kind of parties and professions are you interested in ? Have you read Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein ?

  1. Shawn Conan Scott's Avatar Shawn Conan Scott

    My $0.02 only.

    It seems that there is an attempt via the referendum to legislate morality - good vs evil. I do not think this is a positive thing for humankind.

    Young people should be taught facts in as uniform a manner as is age-appropriate and healthy. Since parents seem to think they aren't equipped to teach arithmetic, even algebra, or language arts, or indeed history, then a classroom setting isn't the worst choice by any means. At least it would be consistent, one would hope. So let science inform as to what this is and what it does, etc.

    Morality - how to choose your actions - should be governed by these principles: 1) Does it hurt you? 2) Does it hurt another? 3) What do you do if either answer is "yes"? Traditionally, the church and family do this teaching. Now I don't necessarily condone HOW they do it. Too many times I see abuse of one form or another with this idea. Well-being of individuals is more often sacrificed for following "God's word". So I don't know what the answer there would be. Maybe a "morality class" should be taught as well. How we should treat each other.

    Sex is a biological function, and should be dealt with as such. Right and wrong, respect, compassion, not so much. Perhaps it is THERE we should look for reforming.

  1. Nikki Tate- Coates's Avatar Nikki Tate- Coates

    My response to the Christians being outraged by Cardi-B's new video is this. The more Christians complain about a music artist or video, the more popular the artist or video becomes because people want to see what all the fuss is about. I saw the same thing back in the 80s with heavy metal music & the PMRC. The PMRC couldn't silence heavy metal music because the more they complained, the more popular the music became because people were wondering the big deal was. I myself became a fan of heavy metal music because of the PMRC. Cardi- B will probably become more popular because of the backlash. It happens alot in the entertainment industry. The best way to gain fans is to cause an outrage. The Church is just providing free advertisement for recording artists what they complain.

  1. Christian's Avatar Christian

    Before any sex education, there must be Death Education. Explaining to students how they will grow up, be an adult, grow older, become disabled, then die. Death education should also have field trips to see real autopsies in person, followed by the time lapsed videos of human corpses decomposition, and a visit to a city graveyard, a nursing home, and a hospital. Now, having fully witnessed death, you set the reason for the Transmission of the Gift of Life. All Shall Die, and the only work around we have against Time and Death is our love for one another. By recombination and ongoing permutations of our genetic codes, our children, grand children, and great grand childrens' children continue to carry on the transmission of the Gift of Life. Mating and reproducing is our form of communication across generations and across thousands of years. To teach 'sex education' without a full understanding of Death Education is to tell only half the story, and miss the very purpose of mating and reproduction.

    Time slays us all... Our bodies will rot, but for the Faithful our Love is Eternal, our Souls are immortal, and our spirit forever embraces the infinite.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    The HIV virus used to teach children and adults about sex. 1.2 million in the US learn about sex the hard way when they got the virus. If I remember that around 4th grade was the time I got interest in the females in class as being different then us boys. How did I learn about the bees and the birds. I lived in a farm community. How will your children learn about sex, by getting one of the 50 STD's that can be found in many communities.

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