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Sex ed on the ballot in Washington state: Referendum 90

In a time when there is so much handwringing over the loss of control in government, a group of concerned parents garnered enough signatures to put Referendum 90 on Washington State’s November’s ballot. This move by citizens allows the voters to have a say in the sexual education of the state’s publicly educated children. Whitney Holz of Informed Parents of Washington was overwhelmed by the support and willingness to get the needed signatures in time to make the November ballot, “It was a state record during a global pandemic.”

sex ed sit out
Sex Ed Sit Out, a protest on April 23, 2018 of parents removing their children from public schools in protest of "graphic" sex ed resources. |

If voters reject Referendum 90 then it would overrule the explicit comprehensive sexual education mandate overwhelmingly passed last March by Washington’s Democratically controlled legislature and signed into law by Democrat Governor Jay Inslee.  Referendum 90 will give Washington State voters the opportunity to weigh in on the choice of how and when to teach children about sex. While it may be a bit confusing to some, this move by concerned parents, puts before the voters exactly what the legislature made into law. Voting “Yes” for Referendum 90 means a citizen agrees with the move to mandate comprehensive sex-education in K-12. Voting “No” indicates that parents and local communities should determine the timing and the best curriculum for its young students.

Proponents of Referendum 90 use convincing words like “age-appropriate” and “safe and healthy” to assure parents that their children will not be exposed to information or images they aren’t mature enough to comprehend. The premise is that comprehensive sexual health education curriculum will allow children to have more power with their own bodies. Courtney Normand, with Planned Parenthood explains that, “Knowing that private parts are private, and who are your trusted adults that you can go to.” Pediatrician Dr. Grace Yelland says that young children need to learn about good touch, bad touch, so that they can be aware of sexual abuse. She said that 34% of sexual abuse occurs before the age of 12. Teaching young children about their sexuality will help fight abuse. Yelland also indicates that when tweens/teens are given cell phones, most are exposed to pornography. Children need to get fact-based sexual education so they realize, “what you see in pornography is not how a relationship should be handled; this is not how it happens.”

Informed Parents of Washington are not against sex education in school but disapprove of the early sexualization of children. Holz encourages parents to take the time to examine the actual information that their children will be learning. She encourages parents to be partners with their school and select the best curriculum. If voters reject Referendum 90, then local school districts will have increased control over the content and the timing for sex education. Even if there are not enough votes to reject Referendum 90, parents can still opt to have their children removed from the sex education classes.

Hopefully, Informed Parents of Washington will encourage citizens in other states to become active participants in the laws that impact today’s students.

Karen Farris saw the need to help underserved kids while serving in a youth ministry that gave her the opportunity to visit rural schools on the Olympic Peninsula. She now volunteers her time grant writing to bring resources to kids in need. She also shares stories of faith in action for those needing a dose of hope on her weekly blog, Friday

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