Parents in Washington State are working to repeal ESSB 5395, legislation requiring “Comprehensive Sex Education” (CSE) for public school children from kindergarten through 12th grade.
They’re gathering signatures to have Referendum-90 (R-90) placed on the November ballot. R-90 would give voters the opportunity to repeal the law, which was signed by Democrat Governor Jay Inslee in March 2020 – over a great deal of parental protest.
Parents and concerned citizens were upset to learn that local school districts would either choose from curricula and educational resources approved by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) – or face the time and expense of creating their own. Many parents found the OSPI sex ed standards, approved curricula and resources to be inappropriate and confusing for children.
Mark Miloscia is a former member of the Washington House and Senate and Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), one organization collecting signatures to place R-90 on the ballot. He writes: “This issue is too important to cast aside parents’ wishes. Young children do not need to be exposed to explicit sexual material at an early age – not in the name of education, or anything else. This legislation was nothing more than an attempt to indoctrinate children as early as possible.”
Among other problems, the OSPI sexual education standards require that children in elementary school – beginning with five-year-old children in kindergarten – be taught about “gender expression” and “gender identity.” First graders must be able to “identify medically accurate names for body parts, including external reproductive anatomy.”
Fourth graders are required to define “sexual orientation” while fifth graders are taught to “identify trusted adults to ask questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.” Eighth graders must “list steps to using a condom correctly” and high schoolers – as young as fourteen – must demonstrate those steps and be able to “identify local youth-friendly sexual health services.”
Advocates for Youth is a group producing materials that OSPI says are “consistent with state requirements.” Advocates for Youth describes itself as an activist group that fights for youth to have abortion access, LGBTQ rights, access to contraceptives and “confidentiality in health care” – meaning no parental notification for their children’s medical treatment.
“Teaching Tolerance,” a curriculum and website developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is recommended by Washington’s OSPI, as is “Welcoming Schools,” created by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT activist organization. OSPI also lists “Gender Spectrum” as a resource, a transgender activist group that “works to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens.”
FPIW is part of a coalition of groups that has joined together to repeal the law, including Informed Parents of Washington, Students for Life and Parents’ Rights in Education. Despite the coronavirus quarantine, they’ve already collected 52,000 of the 129,811 signatures needed by the June 10 deadline.
Mindie Wirth’s organization, Parents for Safe Schools, is part of that coalition. Wirth writes that the bill “was passed late in the session with very little opportunity for ordinary citizens to testify and no amendments accepted.” She believes that parents “have a responsibility to protect our children from inappropriate, ideology-based curriculum” and says that “many school districts cannot afford an expensive, unfunded mandate.”
Given physical distancing, they’ve had to get creative about signature collecting, sharing ideas on a “Referendum 90: Idea Exchange Forum” hosted by FPIW. One signature-gather places petitions on a front-porch table and invites people to sign through daily social media posts, adding “I also provide homemade treats in individually wrapped packages.”
Another concerned citizen posts information on Facebook and community sites, makes phone calls and sends text messages to friends and family, and places petitions at the local grocery story. When going to collect signatures, this R-90 supporter arranges to go to homes, wearing a mask and gloves and wiping down pens after each signing.
Groups and individuals opposed to the mandatory sex ed legislation are hosting daily signings and weekend “super signings” at stores and churches around the state over the next few weeks. Many of these are drive-thru events, to cooperate with Washington’s coronavirus safety efforts.
ESSB 5395 is heavily supported by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, a political action group encouraging voters not to sign the petitions for R-90. Other groups supporting CSE in the state include ACLU of Washington, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Gender Justice League and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.
Information about R-90 and signature gathering: