Comprehensive Sexual Health Education
Sexual Health Education Now Required in Schools
In November of 2020, voters in Washington State approved Referendum 90, requiring the teaching of comprehensive sexual education in grades 4-12, with a social-emotional focus in grades K-3. The new law (codified in ESSB 5395 – see bill summary) provides flexibility regarding when sexual health is first taught, yet it must be taught once in grades 4 or 5, beginning in the 2022-23 school year. In grades 6-12, public schools must begin phasing in the lessons in the 2021-22 school year, and instruction must be consistent with Washington’s Health Education Learning Standards. Comprehensive sexual health must be taught twice in grades 6-8 and twice in grades 9-12. The law stipulates that parents must be provided with the opportunity to opt-out of sexual health instruction.
Requirements of new law represent only a slight departure from instruction DPSD has offered in our schools for decades. In 1988, the Washington State Legislature passed the AIDS Omnibus Act. This act mandates HIV/AIDS/STD prevention education beginning in Grade 5 and continuing through Grade 12. DPSD has complied with the AIDS Omnibus Act since its inception. Instructional elements of the AIDS Omnibus Act presently in place in DPSD will be integrated into materials/units implemented to meet the requirements of ESSB 5395.
With the passage of Senate Bill 5395, all public schools must begin providing or planning to provide comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) to all students in grades 4-12 by the 2022-23 school year. Sexual health education is not required in grades K-3, where instruction in “social-emotional learning” is required. Units of instruction must be consistent with Washington State’s adopted Health and Physical Education K-12 Learning Standards. The Health and Physical Education Standards provide a framework for comprehensive health instruction as well as for content related to sexual health education. Senate Bill 5395, comprehensive sexual health instruction is defined as: Recurring instruction in human development and reproduction that is medically and scientifically accurate, age-appropriate and inclusive of all students regardless of their protected class status, and include information about abstinence and other methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
While each school district has final authority related to implementation of standards and choice over instructional materials used in classrooms, the following content is required by law:
- In grades K-3, instruction must be in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – learning to do things like manage feelings, set goals, and get along with others. Instruction must be consistent with Social and Emotional Learning Standards and Benchmarks. (Note: there is NO sexuality content required for students in grades K-3.)
- In grades 4-12, instruction must be consistent with Health Education K-12 Learning Standards and include age-appropriate, medically/scientifically accurate and inclusive information about:
- The physiological, psychological, and sociological developmental processes experienced by an individual;
- The development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to communicate, respectfully and effectively, to reduce health risks, and choose healthy behaviors and relationships that are based on mutual respect and affection, and are free from violence, coercion, and intimidation;
- Health care and prevention resources;
- The development of meaningful relationships and avoidance of exploitative relationships;
- Understanding the influences of family, peers, community and the media throughout life on healthy sexual relationships;
- Affirmative consent and recognizing and responding safely and effectively when violence or a risk of violence is or may be present, with strategies that include bystander training.
- Washington’s AIDS Omnibus Act – the stipulations of which can be found using the following link, will be incorporated into Deer Park’s CSHE unit in years to come – https://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=28A.230.070
PUBLIC SCHOOLS RETAIN THE AUTHORITY TO CHOOSE CURRICULAR MATERIALS SUGGESTED BY THE OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION (OSPI) OR TO IDENTIFY, CHOOSE, OR DEVELOP A DIFFERENT CURRICULUM – ASSUMING IT COMPLIES WITH APPLICABLE REQUIREMENTS. If a public school chooses to use materials that are not from OSPI’s list, the public school or applicable school district, in consultation with OSPI, must conduct a review of the selected or developed curriculum to ensure compliance with the requirements.
RIGHTS OF PARENTS/GUARDIANS
Parents and guardians will have the right to opt their child out of any unit of instruction related to comprehensive sexual health education. Additionally, schools are required to notify parents and guardians about when the school will providing sexual health education instruction and make instructional materials available to parents and guardians for review. In accordance with the law, this communication will happen at the beginning of the school year. Additionally, Deer Park School District will also repeat this communication four weeks prior to instruction.
A digital opt-out form will be provided to families of students enrolled in grades/classes where the content is covered. In lieu of using the form to opt a student out of CSHE, a parent can send their child’s teacher an email requesting alternate content.