Monthly Archives: January 2020

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    Senate passes Wilson’s comprehensive sexual health education bill

Senate passes Wilson’s comprehensive sexual health education bill

January 22nd, 2020|

The teaching of science-based, age-appropriate sexual health education would be expanded to more school districts and grade levels, under legislation passed today by the Senate.

“Some people hear the words ‘sex education’ and mistake the focus of the curriculum, which is health and safety, and is age-appropriate for each grade level,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the vice chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. 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.”

Among other things, Wilson’s Senate Bill 5395 would:

  • Expand comprehensive sexual health education curriculum to all grade 6-12 schools across the state, phased in over several years;
  • Phase in age-appropriate curriculum for K-5 grades; and
  • Allow parents to exempt children from sexual health education classes on request.

“Students need a safe place to ask questions, to fully understand consent, and to have the information they need to make safe decisions,” Wilson said. “There are children who will be targeted for molestation in the coming year, there are young women who may face sexual coercion or assault. They need access to information and lessons that will enable them to make decisions to ensure their health and safety.”

The Senate passed SB 5395 during the 2019 legislative session, but the House failed to act on it. Outside parties have tried to stir opposition to the bill by circulating misleading and often false depictions of the sexual health curriculum.

Wilson said the curriculum does not promote sex or direct teachers to instruct students on how to have sex, one of a number of claims that have been incorrectly alleged. To the contrary, the curriculum focuses on health and safety, emphasizes the importance of consent, and is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STIs.

The bill has earned the support of King County prosecutors who wrote in a recent op-ed in the Seattle Times that the curriculum would help prevent sexual abuse and violence by teaching healthier behaviors.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans, including parents and young people themselves, believe students should have access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexual health education,” Wilson said. “Information is power. It’s time we do a better job of sharing it.”

Wilson bill would address critical needs of early learners

January 20th, 2020|

Early learners would get the assistance and support they need to avoid falling behind their peers in kindergarten and throughout life, under legislation heard today by the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

“Not everyone is ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, and those who aren’t often fall behind early and stay behind,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the committee’s vice chair. “This is a pattern that can hinder them through grade school and high school, into their careers and even into retirement. They lag academically, they fare worse in getting jobs and promotions and saving for retirement, and even their health may suffer.”

Among other things, Wilson’s Senate Bill 6253 would:

  • Expand eligibility for Workings Connections benefits and the Early Education Assistance and Care Program;
  • Reform the state’s confusing range of services and access by creating a single entry point from which each child can be directed to the programs or assistance they need; and
  • Replace the current system in which students either qualify for a myriad of assistance and support, or qualify for none, with a system that provides students with assistance and support based on individual need.

“Under our current system, many children go overlooked and struggle in the critical early learning years,” Wilson said. “By making sure those who need assistance early on enter kindergarten ready to learn, and by redirecting our services to better match actual student needs, our students will be more successful in school and throughout life.”

Studies show that every dollar invested to address these early learning needs saves $7 in long-term educational and social costs by ensuring that early learners are ready to learn when it matters most.

“The critical early needs can mean the difference between someone who thrives through school into adulthood and throughout their life, and someone who struggles and requires assistance in multiple areas,” Wilson said. “Of all the money we can spend on education, investing in early learning can make the biggest difference and bring the largest return.”

Other components of the bill would increase access to parent education and support programs and phase in subsidy rate increases for licensed childcare providers to 75 percent of the market rate by 2023.

Wilson bill would prohibit solitary confinement of youths

January 16th, 2020|

Juvenile holding facilities would be prohibited from subjecting teens to solitary confinement, under legislation heard today by the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee.

“There’s been a longtime assumption that solitary confinement can improve behavior, but studies show just the opposite,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn). “Rather than discouraging violence and assaults on staff and youth, solitary confinement actually increases it.”

Wilson’s Senate Bill 6112 would:

  • Limit the use of isolation to only emergency conditions, with strict guidelines for time and placement;
  • Require institutions to document any use of isolation or room confinement; and
  • Establish a process for the creation of model policies to follow when the use of isolation, room confinement, or less restrictive alternatives is deemed appropriate.

“Solitary confinement is emotionally and psychologically damaging to youth, who are less developed and more vulnerable,” Wilson said. “A study of suicides in juvenile facilities revealed half of all suicides occurred while in isolation and 62 percent had a history of solitary confinement.”

This legislation would align Washington with 10 states — including two of the nation’s largest, California and Texas — that have passed laws to ban or limit solitary confinement for juveniles. When the state of Ohio reduced the use of solitary confinement by more than 88 percent in 2015, institutional violence decreased by more than 20 percent.