Fighting to stop triple X–ed
Washington Voters will decide on a statewide sexuality curriculum
When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law mandating comprehensive sexual health education for K-12 students in March, the state was on strict lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to think outside the box, and quickly,” said Jennifer Heine-Withee, a mother of three who runs Washington Parents Rights in Education. She and other parents set out to collect 139,000 signatures in seven weeks for a request to put the issue to voters in a referendum. Five weekends in a row, volunteers donned raincoats, masks, and gloves and operated drive-thru signature-gathering spots in the parking lots of businesses, churches, and stores across the state. They relied on social media and word of mouth to attract people.
More than 246,000 verified signatures poured in, putting Referendum 90 on the state ballot. Because of the parent-led, grassroots effort, voters will decide in November whether the state’s new law requiring districts to teach comprehensive sex education will take effect.
An online survey in 2019 found 58 percent of the 10,000 respondents said Washington should not require sex ed in K-12 public schools, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Parent groups purchased several state-approved curriculums and put examples on their websites and social media accounts. The 3Rs curriculum from the LGBT group Advocates for Youth gives kindergarten children graphic descriptions of their genitals and confusing messages about their gender. Samples for sixth grade include sexual consent role-play and explicit description of sex acts. A high school lesson affirms LGBT lifestyles and leaves out the failure rate for various forms of birth control.
“This is not just a general sex ed,” Heine-Withee said. “This is grossly inappropriate and highly sexualized content.”
California implemented required comprehensive sex education—including lessons affirming different sexual orientations and gender identities—for seventh through 12th grades in 2016. The state Department of Education unanimously approved revamping the K-12 curriculum framework in 2019 to include more pro-LGBT messaging for younger ages.
When Washington lawmakers considered requiring similar instruction in schools, they received 21,000 calls in opposition to it, according to a public records request Heine-Withee obtained. At one committee hearing, more than 600 parents showed up to oppose the bill. “I read the bill, and then I read everything the bill doesn’t tell you,” said Whitney Holz, a mother of two young boys who also runs Informed Parents of Washington. “Most parents will agree this is not age-appropriate.”
Now, it is up to voters to decide. Heine-Withee is optimistic: “We have a state full of parents, grandparents, and young adults who are outraged by this law.”
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