Comprehensive Sexual Health Education and Sexual Violence Prevention

  • November 18, 2021

Senate Bill 5395, passed by the legislature and Washington voters in 2020, requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education by the 2022-23 school year. Instruction must be age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate, and inclusive of all students, using language and strategies that recognize all members of protected classes. Implementation requirements vary by grade. See OSPI’s website for additional information about the law’s requirements. 

The curricula must include affirmative consent and bystander training. This is a huge win for preventing sexual violence!

This change did not come with any funding, and most programs don’t have the capacity to implement prevention curriculums in all schools in their service areas. Schools are responsible for reviewing their sexual health education curriculum to ensure they’re meeting all of the requirements outlined in the law, and community-based sexual assault programs aren’t required to be involved with implementation.

As content experts in their communities, sexual assault programs and services providers can play an important role in partnering with schools to implement these new requirements. Sexual assault programs can teach about affirmative consent and bystander intervention and provide support and advocacy for students who have experienced sexual violence. 

Some of the sexual assault programs funded by OCVA to provide prevention services include components of sexual health education in their curriculum, although this is not the expectation.. The most common structure would be for schools to invite the sexual assault program to cover sexual violence prevention specific topics, such as affirmative consent, healthy relationships and bystander intervention. If a school asks a sexual assault program to assist with implementing a comprehensive sexual education curriculum, the program can say no, negotiate the parts that they will teach, and/or negotiate payment for services from the school. Additionally, OCVA encourages programs to have a written memorandum of understanding or agreement with schools to clearly identify roles and responsibilities.

Contact OCVA for additional information.

For additional information about implementing sexual assault prevention education in schools, see OSPI’s recommendation report from the Erin’s Law Workgroup and OCVA’s blog post about Erin’s Law. To learn more about the connection between comprehensive sexual education and sexual violence prevention, see the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Program’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education publication, and PreventConnect’s podcast episode How Healthy Sexuality Education Can Change Social Norms.

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