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Washington approves Referendum 90 on sex health education in schools in early returns

Referendum 90 requires all public schools in Washington state to provide comprehensive sexual health education that is age-appropriate to every student.

Voters approved a Washington state ballot measure that would require public schools to teach sexual health education in public schools.

Referendum 90 requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education that is medically and scientifically accurate, and age-appropriate for all students, according to the Secretary of State's (SOS) Office.

The curriculum would vary by grade level. For students in kindergarten through third grade instruction would focus on social and emotional learning, and understanding inappropriate touching and safety.

For students in grades four through twelve, it would cover a range of topics, including choosing healthy behaviors and relationships, health care and prevention resources, the development of meaningful relationships and avoidance of exploitative relationships and affirmative consent. 

Parents would be able to choose to exclude their students from sexual health education. 

Public schools would be required to provide this education in grades six through twelve beginning in the 2021-22 school year. Then all grades would need to receive the instruction by the 2022-23 school year. 

There would also be a requirement for how often students must receive the instruction. 

School districts would need to provide comprehensive sexual health education at least once to students in kindergarten through third grade, once to students in grades four through five, twice to students in grades six through eight, and twice to students in grades nine through twelve. 

Referendum 90 was originally Senate Bill 5395, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in March. But it did not go into law because opponents gathered enough signatures to get the bill on the November ballot. 

Opponents argue the measure goes too far when it comes to teaching younger students about sex. They also say the measure would mean parents and local elected representatives would have little input in determining how they want their kids to be taught. 

Supporters of the measure say it's a needed curriculum to help students, especially younger students, understand how to respect personal boundaries, ask for consent, and learn how to say and receive a "no." They also say the instruction will help give students experiencing abuse the needed tools to seek help.