Senate passes universal, all-grade sex education bill

VIDEO: Push to make comprehensive sex education required learning in all public schools

A proposal for universal, all-grade sex education passed the state Senate Wednesday after extensive debate.

The proposal, which passed on a 28-21 vote, would require schools to teach sex education classes, and to include in the curriculum information about affirmative consent and how to recognize abusive relationships.

Some experts said this proposed legislation's focus on abuse and consent could be the most critical part.

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According to latest national statistics, one in three teenagers in this country is now a victim of either physical, sexual or emotional violence.

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Along with requiring the courses to be evidence-based, the bill would require schools to follow state guidelines that set out learning standards for each grade.

For kindergarteners, those standards dictate discussions about feelings and recognizing friends, along with safe versus unwanted touch, but do not include discussions of reproduction, STD's, or puberty, which are reserved for later years.

With its embrace of affirmative consent, the proposal wades into a cultural controversy that the sponsor of the bill described as enmeshed in the Me Too movement.

That movement has seen waves of women come forward with personal stories of sexual assault or harassment in an effort to raise awareness of what is often described as gender-based power imbalance, including around what types of consent should be required before touching or sex.

Affirmative consent broadly refers to the argument that the absence of objection doesn't count as consent, and that explicit agreement should be the standard instead.

We talked with Dr. Dale Todd, with Domestic Violence Services in Snohomish County.

Todd works with thousands of students every year and he said he supports legislation that teaches youths to reach out for help.

“It’s OK to ask for help it’s not assign of weakness,” said Todd. “It’s a sign of strength to trust and learn to let someone know you need help.”