Sex Education sends Republicans into Panic

By On

We are protecting the identity of the writer because they are in a vulnerable position for retribution, but they are well known to us. Speech in the USA - including in Whatcom County - is fraught with risks, as we know. - NWCitizen owners.

Recently, the local Republican activist community has been in a state of panic, organizing frantic phone banks and bombarding elected officials and their friends on facebook about a coming disaster. No, it isn’t COVID-19 that has them up in arms, it is Sex Ed.

On its surface, SB 5395 would not seem to raise any alarms. The bill, based on peer-reviewed research conducted by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) reviewed existing sexual health education curriculum in Washington state and determined that there were some updates to be made.

SB 5395 requires that every public school provide age-appropriate sexual education throughout their academic career. For grades K-3, it means learning that boys and girls have different bodies, and what qualifies as healthy interactions and affirmative consent. For grades 4-12, it includes information about the changes occurring to their bodies and minds as they grow; healthy communication skills as they navigate their peer relationships based on mutual respect; understanding the influence of family, peers, and media on their lives; and yes, medically accurate sexual education about how to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of disease.

The idea of such radical and inflammatory ideas being taught in our schools caused the local Republicans to gin up the outrage machine. The Washington House Republican Caucus put out a press release that included the statement, “Kindergartners will be encouraged to question the traditional role of genders. In each subsequent grade, the material gets more graphic and controversial.” Rep. Robert Sutherland (R-Snohomish County) took it a step further. “I’m offended at the pornography that we’re going to be forced to teach our children.”

Locally, Rep. Luanne Van Werven joined the chorus of Republican outrage and posted on her facebook page, “Look at the approved curriculums not the standards to see the explicit depictions.” She complained that “…a single-minded work group with no dissenting voices,” developed the standards.

Sen. Doug Ericksen also joined in, decrying this as an affront by the legislature’s “urban majority” to promote “state-approved theories of gender identity . . . as interpreted by social activist groups.”

Obscured in this tempest is the fact that the OSPI sets the standards but each school district takes responsibility for what curriculum they teach, as long as it meets those standards. Also, parents are informed in advance of each class, and given the ability to have their child opt-out.

During the debate on the House floor, the chair repeatedly censored Republican members for using vulgar and profane terms (i.e. not medically accurate). Supporters made the very real point that this education protects children from abuse and assault. It gives them the tools they need to identify what is going on with their bodies and empowers them to say “no.”

The bill has passed the House and Senate and sits on Governor Jay Inslee’s desk awaiting his signature.

But that still hasn’t stopped local Republican activists from bombarding Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), who voted in favor of the bill, with messages accusing her of “voting to have schools teach pornography to kids.” The misinformation campaign on facebook continues.

Unfortunately, this actually ties into larger conspiracy theories that are interwoven into the modern Republican party accusing Democrats of all being secret pedophiles and abusers. Tune into the conservative youtube channels and there are thousands of videos, with millions of views, talking about Hillary Clinton, secret pedophile Hollywood sex crime rings, and of course, those “social activist groups.”

Without a doubt, this will be the Washington State Republican’s electoral gambit this year and will feature heavily in attack ads come November. In 2008, they tried a similar effort. They proposed a series of rapidly escalating and harsher sentencing laws for sexual assault and then, when a handful of Democrats voted “no” on the measures for being redundant, they sent out thousands of glossy mailers accusing those representatives of defending sexual predators.

In an age of misinformation and viral social media outrage, we will see well-produced facebook videos and ads instead of glossy mailers, but the message is the same: Be very, very afraid. Those Democrats want to do something terrible to your children; and threatening one’s children always makes for a compelling case.

But the truth is that one party is offering medically accurate information to help protect our children from abuse and assault; the other is offering nothing but outrage politics. Sadly, outrage does not protect anyone.

About Guest Writer

Citizen Journalist • Member since Jun 15, 2008

Guest Writer is for over 100 articles by individuals who are not regular writers. Their actual name and brief info is listed at the top or bottom of their articles.

Comments by Readers

Sam Crawford

Mar 15, 2020

This published opinion piece should be attributed. It reeks of shoddy journalism if it’s not. If you’re claiming that somehow there’d be ‘retribution’ for anyone who is expressing thier freedom of speech here in Whatcom County in 2020 (or any recent timeframe), you should provide a specific adjudicated example of how that’s occurred - circumstances involved, etc. EVEN IF such an example could be provided, it would be a more legitimate protection of free speech to attribute the writer in defense of the first amendment. I’m disappointed the editor here concludes differently.

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John Servais

Mar 16, 2020

Sam, you have conflated two issues in your comment.  First, the article is a combination of facts and perspective - as are many articles on NWCitizen. I assumed you understood that from years of reading NW Citizen. We present citizen perspectives; that is the purpose of the website. Please review our mission statement on the tool bar at the top of the page. 

The second issue is that the italicized sentence above the article is not part of the article, but rather an explanation of why we are not identifying the writer. Over the years, I have had many people tell me they cannot speak out because of retribution they would receive: everything from loss of job, loss of career, loss of promotion, loss of social acceptance by peers, blacklisting for jobs, the list can go on and on. Not only do they tell me but, as one who does speak out, I personally know. 

When you raise issues, question discrepancies, or reveal bad behavior that people in power would rather keep “under the rug,” you run the risk of retaliation. Allow me to share the example of the KAP scandal at the Port of Bellingham. In essence, the Port bought into a scam in 1989 by a pair of fast talkers from out of town - and lost an estimated $6 million. I accused the commissioners of wrongdoing - which they denied for months. I took my information and the story to the Herald, but they refused to cover the issue. In late 1990 and early ‘91, the Port meetings drew crowds as I continued to accuse them. Finally, the Seattle P.I. made it a front-page headline story in the spring of 1991. Weeks later, the commissioners admitted they were wrong and had been scammed.  No sitting commissioner was reelected and people were fired. This did not endear me to local elected officials in the city or county, or to the powers-that-be in our isolated community.

I came face-to-face with verbal proof of retribution on the street one day, but have never written about it - until now. About 30 years ago, when I was unable to get jobs I was fully qualified for, I by chance met the county human resources director on a sidewalk downtown. During our conversation, he said he’d been told that I had been blacklisted for any job in this community - Bellingham or the county. He could not hire me, and any private company that did would lose business with the county or city. He did me a courtesy by letting me know and I kept this to myself, as revealing it would have caused retaliation against him. He has since passed away and it is now safe to relate the story. Many readers will figure out who he was and will know he was a man of integrity who served our community well. 

So c’mon, Sam, as a former member of the County Council, you and I both know there is retribution for speaking out in Whatcom County. 

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Sam Crawford

Mar 17, 2020

It’s your website. And your choice for legitimacy and reputation. If you want to publish salacious “...in a panic…” descriptors (which aren’t true) with no attribution, maybe you shouldn’t have been hired based on poor journalistic discretion.

There very likely would be a referendum on this legislative action, well, very likely in normal times. But signature gathering just got very very difficult in the face of the pandemic, so who knows. Maybe the writer’s (whoever that is) suggestion that this will have to be taken up at the school board level is the path that will have to be taken for those who are concerned about this.

By the way, in the 15 years I was on the county council, the council was ‘blitzed’ with more incessant repetitive emails on a given issue by the left leaning citizens than by those on the right (and I think anyone on the council will agree with this). I was more respectful to them than describing those folks as “in a panic” or “frantic”.

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Steve Harris

Mar 30, 2020

On retaliation for exercising your Rights I can assure you that retaliation by those in power is alive and well in Whatcom County.

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Steve Harris

Mar 30, 2020

As far as the sex education bill, I read the changes in the law.  I have a child and two grandchildren in the Bellingham School District and while I have some concerns with the legislation, the ability to exclude my child (and my daughter to exclude my grandchildren) from attending, alleviates most of my concerns.  

My primary concern with the new law is that, at this point, we don’t know what the NEW curriculum will be… I’ve seen some possible curriculum posted by my elected representatives, but I haven’t seen what is actually intended to be taught. Everyone will have to wait and see what the individiual school districts decide.  In the interim, I’d attend local school board meetings to have input on those decisions. 

I do believe that the author of the article is using a bit of hyperbole, which is a bit hippocritical considering the message. 

Be well. 

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