Legislation passed late Wednesday by the Washington State House of Representatives would require comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) in all public schools by the 2022-23 school year.

Senate Bill 5395, Sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), would:

  • Require age-appropriate, medically accurate CSHE to be taught once from kindergarten to 3rd grade, once from 4th to 5th, twice in 6th to 8th, and twice in 9th to 12th.
  • Teach the concept of affirmative consent to older students so they can better recognize inappropriate behavior and their right to reject it.
  • Define CSHE and specify that curricula for kindergarten to 3rd grade must meet social and emotional learning standards.
  • Uphold the right of parents to review the curriculum and opt their children out of any portion of the instruction.
  • Require schools to notify parents when CSHE will be taught.
  • Establish new requirements for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to provide technical assistance so that districts can effectively implement the new standards.
  • Require CSHE curriculum to include information about affirmative consent.

“First and foremost, this bill is about safety. It’s about giving students the knowledge they need to recognize and resist inappropriate behaviors — from small children targeted by pedophiles, to older students pressured to have sex by their peers,” Wilson said. “Second, this bill is about health. Young people ages 15–24 represent one-fourth of the sexually active population but acquire half of all new STIs. Studies consistently show that the most effective programs include comprehensive sexual health or HIV education — or both — and the comprehensive approach is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STIs.”

SB 5395 does not mandate any statewide curriculum. Instead, the bill gives local school districts the flexibility to determine what will best meet the needs of their students and families. All information must be appropriate and must meet existing state K-12 Health and Physical Education Learning Standards.

“Parents and communities are critical partners in ensuring that our students are healthy and successful, which is why it is so important that this bill strengthens parental rights,” said Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver), who sponsored companion legislation in the House. “Teaching students how to be good friends, how to say no to unwanted touches, and how to develop healthy, respectful relationships are all building blocks of public education.”

The goal of this legislation, Democrats argued during debate, is to give Washington students the tools they need to engage in safe, consensual relationships as adults, in addition to teaching them skills to identify and prevent sexual abuse.

The bill passed 28-21 in the Senate and 56-40 in the House. Having been amended in the House, it must now be sent back to the Senate to reconcile the differences in the versions that passed each chamber.