29th May 2024

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Washington’s new inclusive education law goes into effect in June. Here’s what to know

3 min read

Educators need to start working on new curricula to teach students about the contributions, perspectives and histories of all people, including the stories of LGBTQ+ Washingtonians.

This new inclusive learning law takes effect June 6 and includes all districts, even those that have opposed it.

While Senate Bill 5462 was still in committee, several school boards, including the Lynden School District board, passed resolutions against its passage.

“It was more about how it erodes local control,” Schoolboard President Tonya Hickman told KOMO News.

That includes control of curriculum, Hickman told KOMO News that this is the school board’s job.

“We know that it will possibly hinder our ability to adopt certain materials,” said Hickman.

Those who lobbied for this bill to pass argued that it follows the reality of the world we live in and does not encourage any type of lifestyle or behavior.

The new law directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to update curricula at all grade levels to include the histories, contributions, and perspectives of LGBTQ+ people by Dec. 1.

The lessons must be age-appropriate, and then all school districts, charter schools, and state-tribal schools will have to incorporate those new curricula by Oct. 1, 2025.

“First of all, we’re committed to inclusive education, and we believe every student has worth and value. I don’t know if the government mitigating those challenges is the most effective approach. I like to say as a community school, I think decision-making can be made at the local level,” Superintendent David VanderYacht told KOMO News.

The superintendent said their student body, with just 3500 students, is quite diverse. When asked, he said they would comply with this new law.

“We will also engage in the process and work to represent the families that we serve,” said VanderYacht.

KOMO News asked VanderYacht if they celebrate different groups on certain occasions. For instance, hosting a pride day.

“We have not had pride celebrations at our schools, nor do we have Native American celebrations,” VanderYacht said. He explained the board just recently passed a new policy around “minimizing those celebrations of specific groups.”

Instead, he said they host cultural awareness celebrations at the high school.

“It’s really important that all of our students feel represented in the school district and the learning materials. To me, that’s not necessarily through celebrations,” he added.

Other proponents of this measure pointed out there are thousands of students in the state, who have LGBTQ+ parents, and those parents should also be reflected in the lesson plans students receive in Washington public schools.

“We want people to understand different ethnic backgrounds, traditions, and histories, but the fact is, do we need to sexualize children at that age?” argued Brian Noble, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, during one of the hearings on the bill as it went through the Legislature.

Noble said the primary responsibility of the parents is to educate their children on sexual identity and sexual practices that fit their family and that it’s not the state’s responsibility.

“After they are an adult, they can educate themselves,” he added.

There are growing bodies of research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students. One piece of research, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that schools are often unsafe for LGBTQ+ students who frequently experience negative or hostile school climates, including bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at school.

There’s also been plenty of research that has identified strategies to support LGBTQ+ and all students to be safe and thrive at school. Those strategies include:

  • Include creating supportive groups for all students
  • Professional development for educators and other school personnel to give them the tools to support and protect all students
  • Provide information and support related to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE), including curricula that is SOGIE-inclusive

“Part of our approach is to minimize and eradicate all of those types of behaviors, and we think that comes through an inclusive learning environment for all students. But you don’t necessarily want the state to tell you what you’re putting in that. That’s what it’s about to do,” said VanderYacht.

The new inclusive education law in Washington state calls for collaboration to develop this new curriculum. The new law requires all superintendents to document compliance with the office of superintendent of public instruction- which is responsible for insuring compliance.


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