Senate Bill 5395, passed by the State Legislature in 2020, requires that all schools provide comprehensive sexual health education by the 2022–23 school year. Comprehensive sexual health education is defined in the bill as instruction about human development and reproduction that takes place over time and is age-appropriate and inclusive of all students. All current requirements can be found in Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 28A.300.475.
Students in grades K–3 will receive social and emotional learning. There is no sexual health content required for students in grades K–3. Social and emotional learning is learning about respectful communication, healthy friendships, respecting personal space, and managing emotions. Beginning in the 2022–23 school year, students in grades 4 or 5 will receive sexual health education at least once. Instruction on human growth and development (puberty) generally begins in 4th or 5th grade. Older students will receive age-appropriate information about human growth and development and the reproductive system, healthy relationships, consent, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy prevention methods. Beginning in the 2021–22 school year, we will provide instruction at least twice between grades 6–8 and at least twice between grades 9–12.
Parents or guardians will be able to review our sexual health curriculum prior to instruction taking place and may choose to opt their child or children out of instruction with a written request.
On Oct. 28, 2021, Meridian held a family information session with a presentation from Cardea about comprehensive sexual health education and the requirements of the legislation.
Cardea has also produced state-wide informational overview videos that may be of interest to families:
The curriculum identified must be consistent with Health Education K-12 Learning Standards, which provide a framework for comprehensive instruction and the provisions of the law. Instruction must also be age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate, and inclusive of all students, using language and strategies that recognize all members of protected classes. The task force will consider materials that have been reviewed by OSPI and the state Department of Health (DOH) for consistency with these provisions of the law.
Yes. Parents/guardians can still opt their children out of planned instruction in comprehensive sexual health education. The new law strengthens the existing provision by requiring districts to honor parent/guardian requests.
No. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the new – and only – requirement for kindergarten through third grade, beginning in the 2022–23 school year. Social and emotional learning is a process of building awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions that support success in school and in life. No sexuality content or curriculum is required for kindergarten through grade 3. Districts may provide social and emotional learning (SEL) with or without a curriculum. While a curriculum is not required for grades K–3, the use of an evidence-informed program is needed to see the benefits offered by SEL.
No. Research on comprehensive sexual health education shows just the opposite. Students who receive comprehensive sexual health education are more likely to delay having sex, and more likely to have fewer partners and use protection when they do have sex. Additional benefits include improved knowledge, attitudes, and outcomes related to healthy relationships and personal safety and touch; increased intentions for communicating with parents and guardians about sexuality in the media; reduced bullying related to sexual orientation; and increased empathy and respect.
The law says instruction in comprehensive sexual health education must be “inclusive of all students, regardless of their protected class status, and that “all curriculum, instruction, and materials must use language and strategies that recognize all members of protected classes.” Current protected classes include:
Race and color
Religion and creed
The goals are for all students to feel seen and accepted for who they are and for all students to receive instruction that is useful and relevant to them as individuals.
Affirmative consent is an approach to giving and receiving consent for any activity that includes clear, voluntary, enthusiastic permission. It is not just the absence of “no.” While the law defines affirmative consent in relation to sexual activity, instruction must be age appropriate. In earlier grades it might focus on hugs or horseplay, and in older grades on hugs, exchanging photos, or romantic or sexual contact. Bystander training teaches students how to safely intervene when they see bullying, sexual harassment, or unwanted sexual activity. These topics were included in legislation as a way for schools to combat the high rates of unwanted sexual contact experienced by youth in our state. According to the 2018 Healthy Youth Survey, 12.3% of 8th graders, 18.9% of 10th graders, and 25.2% of 12th graders had been forced into kissing, sexual touch, or intercourse when they did not want to. Research shows comprehensive sexual health education is an important and effective sexual abuse and violence prevention strategy. When students learn about and develop skills related to affirmative consent, they are more able to set personal boundaries, to feel respected, and to respect the boundaries of others.