Monthly Archives: April 2020

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    Lawmakers: Students deserve honest information on sex education

Lawmakers: Students deserve honest information on sex education

April 3rd, 2020|

In nearly seven hours of floor speeches in the House and Senate this session, a vocal minority argued vociferously against legislation to require comprehensive sexual health education in all public schools. Though the speakers claimed to address the curriculum, many of their comments were so outlandish that we feel obliged to set the record straight on this important new law.

In an irony that would be comical if the consequences weren’t so serious, the speeches demonstrated the very need for the legislation — in lieu of factual, science-based information, the public is at the mercy of misinformation from unreliable sources.

One of the most ridiculous claims is that the curriculum would “sexualize” young students by teaching them sexual skills. This is a blatant falsehood.

At each grade level, the curriculum is age appropriate. The curriculum for younger students focuses on basic concepts such as stranger danger; good touch, bad touch; and using your words instead of your hands. The importance of this curriculum cannot be overstated.

When teachers discuss “good touch, bad touch,” it’s not uncommon for a student to raise a hand and say, “I’ve been touched like that.” What follows is typically a private interview with the teacher and the notification of Child Protective Services. Sometimes there’s nothing to worry about. More often, CPS finds the child has not been molested but is in the early stages of being groomed — and begins monitoring to protect the child from suspected pedophiles.

In older grades, the curriculum focuses not on the graphic sex acts its opponents allege but on how to help students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior; the medical and economic implications of their choices; and how to make sound decisions about their health and future. Perhaps most important in this #MeToo era, they are taught about affirmative consent and how to resist peers who pressure them for sex.

Some opponents seem so fixated on the word “sexual” that they exaggerate its emphasis in the curriculum, with one group going so far as to call the legislation “SeXXX Ed” in an obvious effort to spur outrage. But if any word deserves additional emphasis, it should be “health,” as the curriculum is more accurately described as education about student health and the ramifications of sexual actions — from the stress of an unplanned pregnancy to the potentially lifelong effects of an STI. It’s also about teaching what healthy relationship behavior looks like. As two King County senior deputy prosecuting attorneys maintain, this is the kind of education that can help prevent sexual and domestic violence.

Another frequent refrain of opponents, and equally spurious, is that the legislation suspends parental control and forces children to attend sex-education classes. To be clear: Any child can opt out at parental request, and parents have the same rights they have always had to review materials and work through their local school boards to oversee their children’s curriculum.

With similar mendacity, opponents suggest the legislation introduces a radical new curriculum to encourage sexual activity. But there’s nothing new or radical about this except their efforts to mislead and manipulate parents.

Many people are unaware that comprehensive sexual-health education is already taught in many school districts across the state. In Federal Way public schools, for example, students have received comprehensive sexual-health education for years. There’s been no uproar or alarm in Federal Way, or in other school districts, because the age-appropriate curriculum is noncontroversial and effective.

We’re aware that some parents have strong feeling about this law. These same parents deserve to be given accurate, truthful information about the curriculum their children will be taught.

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    Two more Wilson bills improving access to childcare signed into law

Two more Wilson bills improving access to childcare signed into law

April 3rd, 2020|

Two new laws signed today by Gov. Inslee will ensure the delivery of full childcare benefits for eligible households under the Working Connections Childcare (WWC) program and will improve teen parents’ chances of attaining the education and graduation credentials to position them and their children for more successful lives.

“Childcare has never been more needed or less accessible than it is today, and it often determines whether parents and children thrive or struggle — not just during their school years but throughout their lives,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored both bills. “I know the tremendous difference it can make because I saw the impacts firsthand each and every day when I worked in our public schools.”

The first bill, Senate Bill 6540, ensures that children will receive the full, 12-month childcare benefit for which they qualify under Working Connections. Under the current system, the 12-month clock starts as soon as an application is processed — often weeks and even months before a parent can find and arrange childcare — and expires after 12 months, even if the child has been in care for only a few months. Wilson’s law delays the start of the clock until the child begins receiving care.

The second law, also sponsored by Wilson in the Senate, passed in the form of a companion bill in the House — House Bill 2455. This measure extends, within existing resources, full-time subsidized childcare during the school year to eligible parents attending high school or working toward a high school equivalency certificate.

“Access to childcare makes for healthier households and more successful students,” said Wilson, vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “When teen parents are able to stay in school or complete the work to earn a diploma, they position themselves and their children for more successful lives and they make our communities stronger.”

These are two of a slate of bills Wilson sponsored and shepherded to passage this year that improve childcare access, quality or safety. Two other Senate bills — SB 5434 and SB 6483 — prohibit guns at childcare facilities and allow childcare providers additional time to make remedial improvements that improve quality of care.

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    Governor signs new law to prohibit solitary confinement of youths

Governor signs new law to prohibit solitary confinement of youths

April 3rd, 2020|

Juvenile holding facilities may no longer subject teens to solitary confinement, except in extraordinary circumstances, under a law signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Solitary confinement is damaging to youth. It traumatizes them and hinders their ability to learn, grow and reintegrate into society,” said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), the sponsor of House Bill 2277. “Subjecting kids to solitary confinement is nothing short of torture. Its end is way past due.”

Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored matching legislation and shepherded Peterson’s bill to passage in the Senate, said a study of suicides in juvenile facilities revealed half of all suicides occurred while in isolation and 62 percent of the youth had experienced solitary confinement.

“Studies show that using solitary confinement to improve behavior accomplishes exactly the opposite,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn). “Instead of reducing violence and assaults on staff and youth, solitary confinement makes things worse. It is an outdated and misguided practice that inflicts serious, lasting harm.”

The new law:

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

The legislation aligns Washington with 10 states — including the nation’s two 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.

Coronavirus update: Resources for UNEMPLOYED WORKERS

April 3rd, 2020|

These are challenging times for all of us, and especially those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic.

The sudden wave of unemployment has had two big effects:

First, federal and state governments offering historic levels of assistance to those hurt by the pandemic, including unemployment benefits not normally available; if you have lost your job, please check and make sure you’re not overlooking valuable benefits to help get you through these difficult times.

Second, our state Employment Security Department (ESD) call center is being inundated with calls — though ESD is doing its best to add staff, it will take time to hire and train the new hires. So please patient and, if possible, contact ESD online rather than by phone – as is recommended in the following list of resources.

Navigating ESD During COVID-19

ESD is experiencing an increase in calls due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. To better assist you and your case, please start with this website first if it is accessible to you. ESD can also be reached at 888-836-1900; people who are deaf or hard of hearing can call the Washington Relay Service at 711.

Applying for Unemployment

  1. Apply online if you can and read the helpful information on ESD’s website before you apply.
  2. In particular, review the unemployment application checklist

Recent Changes to Unemployment Insurance

To make Unemployment Insurance as widely available as possible, ESD has been working in conjunction with Gov. Inslee to make the following changes:

  • Allowing more workers to access standby status for longer periods.
  • Making job search requirements optional.
  • Lowering the tax impact to businesses who use ESD programs.
  • Waiving the traditional waiting week.
  • Relaxing penalties and fees for employers and workers who miss deadlines due to the COVID crisis.

Helpful resources

Federal Stimulus Information from ESD

Here are three ways benefits and access to unemployment are expanded:

  1. Many people who don’t usually qualify for unemployment benefits because they are self-employed or don’t have the typically required 680 hours will be covered under this legislation.
  2. An additional $600 each week will be paid to those on unemployment, for up to four months. (Some individuals will also receive $1,200, but that is not connected to unemployment and will come directly from the federal government).
  3. Unemployment benefits will be available for longer, up to 39 weeks (usually it is up to 26 weeks).

I hope you find this information helpful. While we practice social-distancing, it’s also important we stay connected and informed; sign up for ESD’s COVID-19 action alerts for the most up-to-date information and changes.

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    Coronavirus update: Resources to assist DISRUPTED BUSINESSES

Coronavirus update: Resources to assist DISRUPTED BUSINESSES

April 3rd, 2020|

If you are a local business owner, my heart goes out to you — this pandemic isn’t just a health crisis, it’s an economic nightmare for businesses across our district, our state and our nation.

Please know that the catastrophic challenges you face weigh heavily on the minds of my colleagues and I. In addition to legislative action we took to provide immediate assistance, we support Gov. Inslee in his executive responses and stand ready to provide additional help as events continue to evolve.

In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to click on this link — http://sdc.wastateleg.org/wilson/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2020/04/Small-Business-Programs-040120-update-2.pdf — for a detailed list of resources for small businesses during this unprecedented crisis.

In addition, my office has received many questions about what kinds of businesses and work are considered essential and non-essential during the pandemic. On page four of this link — http://sdc.wastateleg.org/wilson/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2020/04/20-25-Coronovirus-Stay-Safe-Stay-Healthy-tmp-1.pdf — you will find the definitions of essential and non-essential businesses under the governor’s executive proclamation, along with links to additional resources for clarification.

Lastly, this link to a related proclamation by the governor answers questions about sick leave related to the pandemic: http://sdc.wastateleg.org/wilson/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2020/04/Sick-Leave-COVID-19.pdf.

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    Wilson bill to improve childcare learning and development is now law

Wilson bill to improve childcare learning and development is now law

April 2nd, 2020|

A new law signed today by Gov. Inslee allows childcare providers the additional time some need to make remedial improvements that improve quality of care.

Senate Bill 6483, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), updates the state’s Early Achievers rating requirements to allow certain childcare providers 12 months instead of 6 to complete remedial activities necessary to satisfy requirements. The goal of Early Achievers is to make sure childcare providers are effectively and adequately addressing children’s learning and development needs.

“The goal of the ratings requirements is to make sure our kids’ needs are met, not to shut down childcare providers,” said Wilson, vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “If a provider is improving the level of care but needs a little more time to fully meet the Early Achiever requirements, that’s an investment worth making on behalf of our kids.”

The ratings apply to providers who receive subsidies through the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and Working Connections Childcare subsidy program. The new law also allows providers to continue to receive subsidies while completing remedial improvements.

“Making sure children can get off to a good start in life is one of the most crucial things we can do for them,” Wilson said. “Healthier, more successful children invariably evolve into healthier, more successful adults. They achieve a better quality of life, and they make our communities stronger.”

SB 6483 is one of several bills Wilson sponsored and shepherded to passage this year that improve childcare access, quality or safety.

Two other Senate bills — SB 5434 and SB 6540 — prohibit guns at childcare facilities and ensure that Working Connections Childcare recipients receive the full childcare payments for which they are eligible. A third bill — SB 6255, which passed in the form of House companion legislation — improves access to child care for parents who are attending high school or working toward completion of a high school equivalency certificate.