Referendum 90, Washington State’s Sex Education bill, passes in the November 3rd election

Michael Thompson, Staff Writer

    On November 3rd, 2020, Washington State voters passed the sexual education bill called Referendum 90, by a percentage of 57.82%. Under this referendum, Washington state schools will be required to teach comprehensive sex education to students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Through this bill, students will learn social-emotional skills, how to recognize sexual violence/ abuse, and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. 

    As with any bill opened to the constituency, Referendum 90 has its share of supporters and opponents. Those in favor view its successful passing as a tool to support the students by both protecting and preparing them for growing up in a challenging environment.  Those not in support saw this bill as an invasion of their homes and the topics they alone want to teach their children. However, for those in opposition to the bill, the Referendum also includes the ability for parents to opt-out of this education.

    Melissa Houghton, a local mother of an elementary student and a middle school student in the Northshore School District is a firm supporter of this referendum “This bill acts as a forceful function, making parents accountable, opposing conservatism in fear of potentially prudish topics,” said Houghton. Supporters of Referendum 90 have their own concerns about conservative voters trying to limit the information students receive on the topic of sex education—specifically as it relates to LGBTQ+ resources.  “A lot of the conservative concerns have a lot to do with homophobia,” said Houghton.  

    With the introduction of more adult topics, the opponents of the bill worry that their children will choose to identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.  “Teaching detailed sex education in elementary school, takes away my right as a parent to decide how and what my child learns on this subject, potentially encouraging inappropriate behavior,” said Kristy Barabush, a local mother of two elementary school students in the Edmonds School District.  

    Contenders of Referendum 90, are fearful that the new information will expose their children to subjects they feel the students are not ready to understand or manage.  “Though I agree my daughter should be able to keep herself safe and identify abusers, I do not think she needs to know about sexual reproduction in the second grade,” said Barabush. 

    Parents with this opposing view ultimately made up 42% of the voters’ opinion in the election.  

    While Referendum 90 has seen a wide range of reactions from adults, high schoolers are struggling to see how it tangibly affects them.“This Bill doesn’t really impact the High School aged students.  By the time we get to High School, we’ve seen it all in person, on the internet or social media.  A lot of students are already having sex,” said Christopher Kim, a senior student attending North Creek high school.  

    Referendum 90 does not appear to add new education to the High School age but is more focused on early childhood education. “What would really be helpful to High School students, is to know what resources or options are available in the case of a pregnancy or how to deal with a sexually transmitted disease.  The curriculums are focused on abstinence or pregnancy prevention, but not on what could happen,”  said Kim.