Overturning an ill-advised state law is difficult even in the best of times. A pandemic is definitely not the best of times.
Collecting signatures and getting public attention while in the midst of a global health crisis and economic meltdown has been a challenge, but the statewide Referendum 90 effort is doing an impressive job.
R-90 would overturn the party-line vote in the Legislature this year that will require every public school in the state to offer comprehensive sexual health education, as they call it, starting in kindergarten.
The issue is being pushed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, but a survey (mandated by the Legislature) conducted by his own department last fall found that 58% of people oppose the bill. Unfortunately, OSPI dismissed the results of the survey and lawmakers also ignored a groundswell of opposition. At 2 a.m. a few days before this year’s legislative session ended, lawmakers passed the bill. After that dead-of-night vote, Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law while the state was in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many reasons to overturn the bill. Among the most prominent: it takes away local school district control and imposes significant new costs to create new curriculum, or pushes schools to avoid those costs by adopting state-approved curriculum that have a number of problems. (See www.informedparentsofwashington.com for examples of the troublesome curricula.)
A citizen effort is pushing to overturn the bill. A number of local citizens have been active in collecting signatures to get R-90 onto the ballot.
Vicki Green, Chehalis, is a grandmother who has been interested in social issues since she was in her 20s.
“I just have a burden in my heart for children and families,” she told me. She wants to support children growing up with healthy attitudes about forming strong families, and she sees the wide-ranging sexuality education in this bill as harmful to children.
She has teamed up with Kelsi Hamilton, Chehalis, who has children in public school, to run a series of drive-up signature events, helping people sign R-90.
“As Christians, we’re fully aware there should be separation of church and state and I’m respectful of that,” Hamilton said. “We’re not saying schools should be reading the Bible and praying with our kids, so I’d expect the same respect when it comes to matters of sexual health. I think it’s a slow move to indoctrinate our kids, absolutely.”
They’re volunteering their time to help citizens speak up in opposition to this mandate for every school district to teach comprehensive sexuality education.
So far the dynamic duo have held nearly a half dozen petition signing events. Together they’ve collected 400 or so signatures.
Petitions are available locally to sign at:
• Battle Ground Baptist Church: 1110 NW 6th Ave.
• Word of Grace Church: 131 NW 12th Ave., Battle Ground
• Vancouver Church: 3300 NE 78th St., Vancouver
They’ve been holding up signs and inviting people to drive up for them to hand the petition on a clipboard through the window.
As of Friday the referendum organizers had received 88,000 signatures. Their goal is 150,000 (to give them a cushion over the required 129,811), meaning they’re well over halfway there. That’s a remarkable accomplishment during an unprecedented quarantine lockdown. They have a little more than a week for the 7.5 million people of Washington to finish filling out their signature forms, or to find someone with a form and get it signed. The organizers have a list of statewide signing locations at www.parentsforsafeschools.com/event, and that’s also the site to request petition forms.
Local people interested in signing or getting a form for others to sign can contact Green at 360-623-5486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many opinions about sex and sexuality in our diverse culture. It’s inappropriate and ill-advised for the state to mandate one perspective and a comprehensive curriculum to drill this philosophy into students across the state.
Hamilton notes that a parental opt-out provision in the bill is far from adequate, since the “comprehensive” nature of the bill encourages its integration into other subjects. Beyond that, she said, “I think this will be a slow cultural shift and you can’t really opt out of something like that.”
Anyone who wants to ensure that voters can have their say should take seriously the opportunity to sign this petition. There’s barely a week left to get this done — but this is doable, and worth doing.
If you haven’t signed, contact Green or drop me a line. We all need to lend our signature to get this on the ballot and let the people speak in November.
Brian Mittge is a proud public school graduate and parent. Contact him at email@example.com.