House Republicans fight for parents overnight as Democrats pass a controversial comprehensive sex education bill
After one of the most contentious debates of the 2020 legislative session, House Democrats passed a controversial comprehensive sexual health education bill just after 2 a.m. early today without a single Republican vote. Legislative Republicans say it removes local control and ignores thousands of parents statewide who oppose the measure. John Sattgast reports from the state Capitol.
SATTGAST: Senate Bill 5395 would require every public school in Washington to provide comprehensive sexual health education in all grades by the 2022-23 school year. Many parents believe the approved standards are too graphic and too soon for younger children. It's a message Republicans brought to the House floor as they argued for six hours against the bill. This is Vancouver Representative Vicki Kraft describing the Three Rs curriculum.
KRAFT: “On my desk right now, I actually do have information if you'd like to see it is literally a picture of two kids – cartoons – clearly on top of one another on a bed.”
SATTGAST: More than 200 amendments were prepared. Only a fraction was allowed. One by one, majority Democrats defeated the Republican amendments.
Although parents can opt their children out of instruction, Republican lawmakers, such as Representative Richard DeBolt, worry kids would be ostracized.
DeBOLT: “If they try to opt out, are they going to be teased?”
SATTGAST: Many parents have threatened to pull their kids from public schools if the bill becomes law. This is Pomeroy Representative Mary Dye.
DYE: “One of the most touching emails that I received on this topic was from a dear woman in Pasco who said that if this bill passes that she would be determined to homeschool her children.”
SATTGAST: More than 26,000 people watched the live debate on Facebook. Port Orchard Representative Michelle Caldier wondered how lawmakers could ignore such enormous opposition.
CALDIER: “Thousands and thousands of families who have emailed us. And we're going to pass this legislation. None of this makes sense!”
SATTGAST: Chelan Representative Mike Steele, the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, wondered why the state won't let kids be kids anymore.
STEELE: “I'm not sure why we're rushing to remove the innocence from our youth.”
The bill passed along party lines, 56 to 40. It now returns to the Senate for concurrence and could soon arrive on the governor's desk – possibly by the time the Legislature adjourns session on March 12th.
John Sattgast, Olympia.
###Washington State House Republican Communications
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