A Look at Sexual Health Education Changes Coming to Washington Schools

SPOKANE, Wash. — A controversial bill enacted in Florida bans the teaching of certain LGBTQ topics in kindergarten through third grade.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill, which opponents have called “Don’t Say Gay,” that says schools can’t teach topics like gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten to the 3rd year.

This sparked a debate about sexual health education across the country, so, what is taught in local schools?

It is important to note that Washington State law does not require sexual health education for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. The new law, which was adopted in 2020, will not change this. However, more changes are coming, if schools have not already implemented them.

the The law passed in 2020 requires schools to provide some sort of comprehensive sex education by the next school year. Changes have been implemented over the years and this next school year, 2022/23, will be the deadline for the final pieces.

As it stands, schools are required to teach students about the physical changes of puberty from the fourth grade.

In grade five, students learn about HIV and AIDS prevention, abstinence, and healthy boundaries and relationships.

As students enter middle school and high school, they learn about the reproduction and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

A new change coming this fall will require districts to provide “social-emotional learning” to students in kindergarten through 3rd grade if they are not already. It means learning how to deal with feelings, set goals, or get along with others.

Social-emotional learning is not a new concept for schools. Lisa Cleveland, a counselor at Riverbend Elementary, knows him very well, helping students talk through their feelings.

“It could involve – how can we defend ourselves with confidence? Just making sure we have that sense of belonging and helping others feel that sense of belonging as well. It encompasses a lot of life skills,” Cleveland said.

Even under the new law, it’s not required to teach sexual health information in K-3, though the Washington State Superintendent’s Office of Public Instruction has said it could. be, as long as they align with the state’s comprehensive sexual health education requirements.

At some schools in Spokane, including the Central Valley School District, they said they wouldn’t.

Tim Nootenboom, the district’s associate superintendent for learning and teaching, says they’re reviewing the program and making sure it’s legal before the school year deadline. coming.

“One of the things we’re looking at is mapping out what was taught in our school’s previous standards that our community is more familiar with, and then really identifying all the areas where we might be lacking based on the new law and new standards,” he said.

Schools have a process that they follow each time they change programs. Districts should have the programs approved by the school board and then give parents ample time to review and understand the material as well.

“Some of the things that we really try to balance are what is appropriate to ensure that all students are accepted and separated and can be contributing members of our school community and at the same time honor the values ​​of the community” , said Nootenboom. .

Parents should know that when and if schools talk about sexual health education, they will be notified in advance and may even review the material.

If parents are not comfortable with these lesson plans, they can withdraw their students

To learn more about other comprehensive sex ed changes and the implementation process, click here.

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