Good news: the state can’t put a gun to parents’ heads and make them have their children take the new sex education classes.
On the other hand, for many the bad news is, the state, in its self-appointed wisdom, is trying to determine what gets taught in schools regarding sex education. More correctly, most of the voters of Washington made that decision, since the move toward broader sex education was voter approved.
There are some shocking topics, to many, in the curricula aimed at certain grade levels, though much of the more controversial content is optional to school districts. An example: proposed content would have sixth graders learn how to use a condom. The higher the grade, the deeper and more graphic the content becomes.
Parents have the right to opt out of the sexual health, as it’s called, material. School districts must provide 30-day notice to parents of upcoming classes, and parents are able to view the curriculum at all times once it’s available. During that 30-day window, parents can say they will not have their children participate.
The districts themselves also have some latitude in what they will provide as the timeline for roll-out of the classes unfolds. (See the accompanying statement from Goldendale School District Superintendent Dr. Ellen Perconti.)
Alex Gorrod, youth pastor at the Goldendale New Life Assembly of God Church, has been diligently keeping his community updated on the substance and meaning of the new law. Gorrod shared with The Sentinel a comprehensive post he recently provided, which we partially include here because it’s the best condensation of the material we’ve found:
“The state, through a committee, made it so K-12 sex education in its current form would need to be in all schools receiving state funds in order to meet standards. This was then brought to a vote of the people of Washington. The majority of votes said, yes, they wanted this to be state law.
“The upper Middle School (7-8 grade) and High School (9-12 grade) will be using (if approved by the board) Glencoe/McGraw/Hill, www.mheducation.com/prek-12/explore/health/glencoe-health... Module 16 covers the male and female reproductive system; Module 18 covers changes during adolescence (puberty) and marriage; Module 24 covers HIV and other STDs.
“There are eighty optional modules focusing specifically on sexuality. I am unsure if the schools will be using this material or not… 1. Puberty and Sexuality and making responsible decisions; 2. Relationships, communications, decisions about sexual relationships (including a focus on abstinence); 3. Hormones and the reproductive systems; 4. Marriage and Parenthood; 5. Pregnancy and childbirth; 6. Contraception, concerns about sexuality, and abuse; 7. STDs; 8. HIV/AIDS.
“Grades K-3 will use the Great Body Shop, www.thegreatbodyshop.net. The schools have stated that there will not be any sexual portions taught at these age levels…
“Grades 4-6 will also be using the Great Body Shop… The website does give a list of topics covered but has no in-depth information. Because the material is copyrighted, I will not be posting it but do my best to summarize what I saw.
“Each module or book had parts that were to be covered, and then ones that were optional if they were needed to cover state standards or just wanted by that school. I was told they would most likely not be using supplemental materials beyond the books, but was not told if they were using the optional materials. If we look at the guidance the schools were looking at, I see many of the optional things [are] needed to be covered to follow state guidelines. The following are optional lessons found in those materials:
“Identity: defining gender expressions, identity, and sexual orientations. Also it talks about the need to be tolerant and show respect for whatever people choose. The activity described starts with a discussion on what is typical for males and females as far as characteristics (physical, likes and dislikes, and behaviors). They will then be directed to show there is a difference between biological sex and gender expression with the second being something people can choose. Then there is a discussion on what transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual mean and that those are chosen by the person and shouldn’t be assumed or said about them if they haven’t chosen that. With this comes a teaching on how that is hurtful to do so and disrespectful, but it is okay for any person to identify themselves as they want. So we should “Be Supportive, Be Respectful, Be Active.” And then students are asked for ways they can accomplish this.
“Finding Accurate and Credible Information: this section focuses on the idea of finding websites that would be considered good places for students to look for sexual information. The main idea is that if it written by a doctor or a government website, it should be accurate and fine to look at. The following addresses are given: thecoolspot.gov; teens.wbmd.com; kidshealth.org; teenshealth.org; nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/teenhealth.html; mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle.
Guns and the Family:… There is a section that talks about guns. The goal as stated: to “Recognize that guns are often used in violent crimes and are lethal safety hazards.” In reality what it talks about is that there are violent crimes that involve guns, and if you see one to not play with it, and that a family should have a gun safety plan.
“Cleaning: starting in 5th grade it has sections on how to and the need to clean private parts, which I believe is already part of the health curriculum at the middle school level.
“Abstinence and Contraceptives: starting at 5th grade, there is a section on abstinence and contraceptives. This becomes deeper or more graphic each successive year. Sixth grade has a section specifically showing how to use a condom properly. It also contains an activity/lesson where students have to decide what a girl should do. She is dating a guy, who just asked if she would have sex with her, when they had both been practicing abstinence up to this point. The options given are to say no and break up, say yes, or say no and ask him to do something else instead (non-sexual)…”