Washington approves sex-ed measure, despite objection from state's bishops

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Voters in Washington approved a ballot measure that will require "comprehensive sex education" in public schools. Washington's Catholic bishops opposed the measure.

Nearly 60% of Washington voters approved the measure.

The Catholic bishops in Washington said the measure promoted an educational program detrimental to young people, and contrary to the truths of human dignity, human sexuality, and parental formation of children.

The proposal "does not adequately address complex moral issues tied to human sexuality nor properly discuss sex in the context of marriage," the Washington State Catholic Conference said. Its requirements on teaching consent, for instance, do not address the idea that sexual activity should take place only between married spouses.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has said public school districts would be able to choose from a variety of full sex ed curricula and supplemental curricula for grades K-5, grades 6-8, and high schoolers, respectively. According to Seattle Weekly, the office said that grades K-3 curricula focus on social-emotional learning.

The state superintendent's office said it is appropriate for fourth-graders to learn how to define sexual orientation and gender identity. Later grades would learn about healthy relationships, consent, developmental growth, the functions of reproductive systems, how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs. They are also supposed to understand the influences of family, peers, community and the media on healthy sexual relationships.

But Washington's bishops disagreed.

The state's Catholic conference argued that "locally elected school boards cannot fully determine their own policy in this sensitive area." It explained that although school districts are permitted to create their own curriculum based on the state's 2005 health standards, the sex education mandate is not funded and so school districts are more likely to rely on the existing state curriculum than to create their own without funds.

The Catholic conference warned that such sex education can have an effect on the school's general atmosphere.

"Parents can opt their children out of classroom instruction, but they cannot opt them out of schoolyard discussions and the culture change that may take place at school as the result of (comprehensive sexual health education)," it warned.

The bishops cited the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes, which stressed the need to safeguard the right of parents to "educate their children in the bosom of the family."

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