Washington voters to weigh-in on controversial sex ed bill in November

A controversial bill regarding sex education has now reached a tipping point.

The bill, signed by Governor Jay Inslee last month, requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education to students.

It's been heavily debated by local politicians and now it seems it will be up to the voters in November to decide whether the law stays in place, or is repealed before going into effect.

Rep. Chris Gildon of Puyallup is one of the politicians who has been collecting signatures for a referendum to repeal the law mandating sex ed in schools.

"I've received more than 10,000 from folks in my district and across the state with opposition of the bill," says Gildon.

Gildon, who's running for senator, said they've gotten over 260,000 signatures, more than twice the amount needed to get the issue put on the ballot.

"It will make its way onto the ballot in November and the people are gonna have their ability to vote if they want comprehensive sex education in schools or if they don’t," he said.

The bill requires public schools to provide students with information that is medically and scientifically accurate and age-appropriate. In addition to safe sex, the curriculum cover topics on consent and identifying and responding to attitudes and behaviors that contribute to sexual violence.

The bill states the education plan must be consistent with the Washington State Health and Physical Education K-12 Learning Standards. Their guidelines indicate, for example, one topic for kindergartners would be safe and unwanted touch. For high-school students, one topic is the role hormones play in sexual behavior and decision making.

The sex-ed bill also gives parents the choice to opt-out their child in classes covered by the bill.

"We can't end sexual assault if we can't talk about healthy relationships," said Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

Stone said her organization supports the bill because it's been proven that accurate, scientific information provided to kids and teens can help reduce their chances of becoming a victim and perpetrator of sexual assault.

"Young people are exposed to so much negative harmful inaccurate information, anything we can do to reduce that amount by putting in medically accurate, age-appropriate, culturally appropriate information, anyway we can kind of shift that is going to be really important," said Stone.

Those who oppose the bill say providing young people with that information isn't the school's place.

"This is something that has to do with parents rights of when and how their children gain this particular education, this is about parental rights, this is about family values," said Rep. Gildon.

Gildon said it should be up to parents when to introduce these topics to their children.

Stone agrees it's absolutely important for parents to discuss these topics with their children, but she states the community can't rely on this information to only come from a child's home.

Stone said half the victims her organization works with are kids and teens, a majority of whom are assaulted by a family member.

Both perspectives of the bill encourage voters to really get an understanding of what the law entails before come November.