Future of new sex ed law may rest in the hands of voters

Opponents are confident they have enough signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot.

File photo
                                Mindie Wirth of Bothell filed Referendum 90.

File photo Mindie Wirth of Bothell filed Referendum 90.

OLYMPIA — A controversial new law requiring public school to provide comprehensive sexual health education in all grade levels may not take effect next week as planned.

Opponents of the new mandates expressed confidence Thursday that they have gathered enough signatures for Referendum 90, which is aimed at repealing the legislation.

They must submit signatures of at least 129,811 registered voters to the Secretary of State’s Office by June 10 — the date the new law is set to take effect — to earn a spot on the fall ballot.

Mindie Wirth of Bothell, who filed the referendum, said they had just under the required amount at the end of May, and petitions keep flowing in.

“We’re looking good. We’re excited. We need to get that cushion,” Wirth said, referring to the goal of turning in well over the minimum to account for duplicates and invalid signatures.

Parents for Safe Schools, the coalition behind the effort, plan to deliver petitions in the afternoon June 10.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5395 on March 27. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal requested the legislation.

It requires school districts to adopt or develop comprehensive age-appropriate sexual health education consistent with state standards.

It mandates a curriculum be available for instruction to students in grades six through 12 in the 2021-22 school year and then all grades, including kindergarten, beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

Under Senate Bill 5395, starting in fourth grade, and continuing through high school, a school’s curriculum should contain instruction in areas such as physiological development, choosing healthy behaviors, health care, developing meaningful relationships and affirmative consent.

Many schools in Washington already teach sexual health education. This new law ensures every school adopts a curriculum. And the new law does provide parents an opportunity to request their children be exempt from the classes.

This was one of the most controversial bills of the 2020 session. Hundreds of people — opponents and supporters — packed hearings as it wended through the Legislature. A similar bill failed in 2019.

Democrats used their majorities in the House and Senate to push it through over strong opposition from Republicans.

“This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior. It’s about teaching all children to respect diversity and not to bully others,” Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, the prime sponsor of the legislation, said in March.

During session, opponents argued sex education should be restricted to upper grades and expressed concern it did not let parents and school boards decide what is taught.

By the time Inslee signed it, his office had received 9,850 messages opposed to the measure and 59 in support.

Foes immediately kicked into action.

The coalition behind Referendum 90 include the state Republican Party, the GOP caucuses in the House and Senate, Informed Parents of Washington, and the Family Policy Institute of Washington, based in Lynnwood.

“It was very clear to everybody during the session that there was a huge groundswell of opposition all across the state,” said Mark Miloscia, executive director of the Family Policy Institute and a former state lawmaker. “We knew there was a great anger against what was being proposed with this bill.”

Signature-gathering began slowly largely due to restrictions imposed statewide to blunt the spread of coronavirus. A stay-home order closed businesses and churches — two lucrative arenas for signatures — and limited everyone’s movement.

Wirth said petitions got mailed out and returned, some with a couple names on them. In late April, as access to churches improved, so did the collection.

People got creative and set up drive-through signing stations in church parking lots. Volunteers with masks and gloves put out petitions, people drove up, signed with their own pen and drove on. At one point there were 160 such sites, many on grounds of Catholic churches. As in-person services restart, petitions can be placed on tables at churches.

“This was truly a grassroots effort,” she said. “This issue is something that is extremely important to people.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

File photo
A 212-unit development is slated for the Dahlgren property, more commonly known as the “mule pasture.”
North Bend’s water war heats up as construction is set to begin

Who gets to supply water to a 212-unit housing complex is at the heart of the skirmish.

Homeless man lying on the bench. File photo
Cities opting out of county homelessness tax took $17 million with them

It leaves the county with roughly $50 million a year to bond against.

In this February 2020 photo, flood waters inundate Carnation and close Tolt Hill Road. File photo
Flood projects in the valley

Highlights from the list of improvements.

Some cool deer near Preston on Oct. 6. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
News around the Valley: Ballots, oil, weather, water

Voters in the Snoqualmie Valley should have received their ballots for the election.

Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
A construction crew works on the site of the new Snoqualmie Valley Athletic Center in North Bend on Oct. 6. Construction began in September on the multi-field sports complex. It is expected to be completed in May 2021, and provide space for four Little League baseball fields, or two soccer, football or lacrosse fields. The baseball fields will be able to accommodate high school, junior league and softball teams. In other athletics news, the Sno-King Snoqualmie ice hockey rink is also hosting grand opening on Oct. 18.
News around the valley: Athletic center construction, Highway 18 death, candidate forum

Wildfire smoke kills hundreds of WA residents A recent report by the… Continue reading

File photo
State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car-tab initiative

Justices unanimously agreed that voter-approved Initiative 976 is unconstitutional.

(Stock photo)
Rent, utilities moratorium extended

They were extended through Dec. 31.

Andy Hobbs / staff photo
Valley merchants and the cities of North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fall City are co-hosting a Quarantine-O-Ween for Halloween festivities this year. Pictured left to right: Earl Bell, Board President, SnoValley Chamber of Commerce; Rachelle Armstrong, owner of The Bindlestick coffee shop in downtown Snoqualmie; and Kelly Coughlin, director of the SnoValley Chamber.
Halloween trek comes to the valley

Local businesses and cities will be holding a scavenger hunt and candy pick up on Halloween.

Most Read